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French Students Behind First Solar-Powered Blimp
August 4, 2009

More than 30 university-level French students have collaborated to design the world’s first solar-powered blimp, Nephelios, unveiled at the Paris Air Show at Le Bourget last month. This innovative and ecological aircraft, measuring 72 feet long and 18 feet in diameter, with an average speed of 25mph, is set to change the concept of air travel. One hundred years after the first flight across the English Channel by Louis Blériot, Nephelios will undertake an English Channel crossing in late August, making it the first manned solar-powered airship flight of its kind.

Sol’R is a collaborative project between engineering and business students from ESSEC Business School, the Institut National des Sciences Appliquées, the Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Arts et Métiers and the Ecole Polytechnique Féminine, with the objective of designing and creating the first solar-powered blimp in the world. The students have been working on the project for more than a year, largely inspired by past exploits in modern aviation.

The innovative aircraft has the latest-generation, semi-flexible photovoltaic panels installed on its top side. The collected solar energy drives an electric motor situated behind the steering pod, which is equipped with two twin-bladed propellers.

For more information, visit the Sol’R Project website.

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