Posted by: Louis Lavelle on July 22, 2009
By Rachel Z. Arndt
The 40th anniversary of the moon landing has come and gone, and people are starting to fall into post-celebration hangovers. But a blimp is coming to the rescue, giving flight-loving people everywhere another reason to be merry.
Students at the ESSEC School of Business in Paris, along with other French university students, have created the first solar-powered blimp. This August, the aircraft, called Nephelios, will be put to the test as it attempts to complete the first manned, solar-powered flight across the English Channel.
The blimp, designed by about 30 French university students, made its grand entrance at the Paris Air Show in June. Nephelios is 72 feet long, has a diameter of 18 feet, and is powered by an electric motor driven by photovoltaic panels mounted on top.
MBA student Arnaud Vaillant and three others began the Sol’R project to create a sustainable airship that could be used for both science and surveillance. The project was helped along by the ESSEC Ventures Incubator, the school’s center for students interested in creating their own companies.
The valiant pilot taking Nephelios on its inaugural journey across the English Channel will follow in the footsteps of Louis Bleriot, who completed the first flight over the Channel a century ago.