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Sponsoring solar aircraft to circle the globe March 22, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Science.

Deutsche Bank AG, Germany’s largest bank, will help fund a project led by Swiss aviator Bertrand Piccard to build a solar-powered aircraft that will fly around the world without stopping.

The aircraft will have a wing span of about 80 meters and be capable of taking off and flying using energy from the sun. Deutsche Bank AG CEO Joseph Ackermann said the bank will contribute 15 million Swiss francs (€9 million) of the project’s estimated 100 million-franc cost. Energy demand has become a massive challenge and every effort to address that must be supported, Ackermann said today at a news briefing in Zurich.

The record-breaking flight is planned for 2011 and construction of a smaller prototype, with a 61-meter wingspan, will begin next month. The first test flights are scheduled for next year. The biggest challenge will be to develop an aircraft with batteries capable of storing enough solar energy to fly through the night, said Piccard, the project’s president. We’re going to show that all the beautiful exploration of the last century will go on, Piccard said. In 1999, Piccard and co-pilot Brian Jones became the first to fly around the world in a hot-air balloon.

After starting in Chateau d’Oex, Switzerland, they flew west for 45,755 kilometers over 19 days and 21 hours before landing in Egypt. Solar Impulse, as the project is named, will cost about 100 million francs, of which some 65 million francs has already been pledged, said Andre Borschberg, the project’s CEO. The project’s other main partners include Swatch Group AG’s Omega brand and Brussels-based Solvay SA.

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