The Solar Impulse set out in attempt of its latest feat on Thursday, heading toward Madrid and then onto Morocco for what will constitute its first transcontinental flight completed without the help of traditional fuel sources.
During the 48-hour journey, the Solar Impulse will cover more than 1,500 miles, all the while relying on 11,628 monocrystalline silicon solar cells to harvest the energy needed to power its four 10 hp brushless, electric motors.
The power provided by those cells, in addition to the aircraft’s lightweight carbon-fiber construction and its high-aspect-ratio wing – which spans a length equal to the wing of an Airbus A340 – come together to produce an advantageous mix of energy efficiency, performance and controllability.
That mix allows the aircraft to reach altitudes up to 27,000 feet and an average flying speed just under 45 miles per hour. It has also helped the Solar Impulse claim some pretty notable records, including maintaining continuous flight for more than 26 hours without fuel.
Engineers behind the project are currently working on building an improved second Solar Impulse prototype slated to make an around-the-world flight in 2014.
Check out the Solar Impulse website for frequent updates on the intercontinental flight’s progress.