The first manned day and night flight of a solar-powered aircraft has been postponed due to technical problems. The HB-SIA aircraft was due to attempt a 24-hour trip from Payerne airfield in Switzerland yesterday, but the trial was halted after the aircraft’s data transmitter failed.


A spokesperson for the Solar Impulse project told The Engineer that the problem should not set the flight back by more than a few days and the team was waiting to speak to the manufacturer of the part about fixing or replacing it.

The telemetry transmitter is used to keep permanent contact with the plane and supply technical data, flight configuration and positional information. The part, which is about the size of a mobile phone, has already been replaced once, but keeps overheating.

Mission-control coordinator Brian Jones wrote on the project’s blog: ‘This is the first time in the seven years that this project has been running that we have experienced this kind of disappointment. Let’s hope it will be the last.’

The aircraft, which has a 63m wingspan and is as long as an airliner, is powered by 12,000 solar cells and uses lithium batteries to supply energy in the dark. HB-SIA completed its first test flight in April this year, flying for 87 minutes at a height of 1,200m. Once it has completed the 24-hour trip, the team hopes to make the first manned transatlantic solar flight.

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