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The world's first solar-powered blimp
The world's first solar-powered blimp
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Solar plane to cross English Channel

Ecologist

25th July, 2009

World's first manned solar-powered airship provides an inspiration for cleaner travel

One hundred years after the first flight across the English Channel a new kind of record will be set next month - and one to make environmentalists proud.

Proving that CO2-free travel is possible, French students will fly the world's first manned solar-powered blimp, a small non-rigid airship, from France to England.

The 72-foot helium blimp is covered on top with solar cells capable of generating 2.4 kW, powering a small electric motor and enabling it to reach speeds in excess of 25 mph.

It was built by students from schools in France through Projet Sol'R, a project between engineers from INSA Lyon and ESSEC Business School.

The airship was on display at the Paris Air Show in June and is due to make its inaugural flight in late August.

Designers hope solar-powered airships could in the future be used to carry heavy, bulky items like power turbines as well as being used for tourism and telecommunications.

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