After a flurry of activity over the past several weeks, the Solar Impulse team have finally taken their first steps towards solar flight. The prototype of the aircraft designed to be the first to fly around the world powered only by the sun, has completed the first taxi tests down the runway at its home airport in Switzerland.
With the four electric motors running on sunlight, these first tests were slow, only getting up to about 10 knots. Initially the team used safety gear to protect the aircraft in case of a failure of the landing gear. But eventually the aircraft was able to taxi without the use of safety gear, just as it would for a normal takeoff.
Next up, according to the team, is taxi tests up to takeoff speed of about 20 knots for some short “flea hops” into the air. First flights beyond the airport runway are expected early next year.
The videos are from the Solar Impulse team and include several closeup views of the solar-powered aircraft as well as commentary from Bertrand Piccard and some good aerial views of the Solar Impulse.