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Solar Plane Prepares to Soar Over Amazon Rain Forest

by Reuters /

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Student engineers from ETH Zurich are preparing to fly their world-record breaking solar plane over the Amazon rainforest.

The team is fitting its AtlantikSolar unmanned aerial vehicle for a 250-mile, 12-hour flight as it seeks to push the endurance limits of solar planes.

The fixed-wing 15-pound AtlantikSolar will be fitted with a variety of cameras and atmospheric sensors.

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Read More: Solar-Powered Plane Grounded in Hawaii Until Next Spring

AtlantikSolar's most recent landmark was achieved while carrying no payload this July. The team broke the flight endurance world record for any aircraft below 50 kilograms by flying continuously on solar powered batteries, flying over four days and three nights in Zurich.

The flight was also the longest-ever continuous flight of a low-altitude long-endurance aircraft, the second-longest flight ever demonstrated by a UAV, and the third-longest flight ever demonstrated by a solar airplane. In addition, it was the fifth-longest flight ever demonstrated by any aircraft, both manned and unmanned.

 The team holds the AtlantikSolar unmanned aerial vehicle. Atlantiksolar gallery

Team member Philipp Oettershagen, a PhD student, insisted that the concept of solar planes is relatively simple.

"In general it's a very simple thing," said Oettershagen. "What you have is batteries, very energy-dense batteries, and solar modules and the whole concept is that the battery basically gets recharged over the day and then supplies the whole energy during the night."

Read More: Solar Impulse Pilot Andre Borschberg Breaks Solo Endurance Flight Record

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