It's been quite a month for electric aircraft. First, the Solar Impulse 2 broke distance and duration records when it flew from Japan to Hawaii. Then, two competing teams both claimed to have made the world's first electric flight across the English Channel. Now, Germany's PC-Aero says that its Elektra One Solar has become the first solar-electric plane to cross the Alps in both directions.
According to the company, the single-person ultralight aircraft took off from the German municipality of Unterwössen on June 25th, crossed over the Grossglockner (the highest mountain in Austria), and proceeded to land in the Austrian town of Lienz. The whole flight took 2.5 hours.
On July 2nd, it flew back across the mountain range, facing strong headwinds and gusts. Climbing to an altitude of over 3,000 m (9,843 ft) and traveling 190 km (118 miles), it reached the Austrian town of Zell am See within two hours. The aircraft's stated range is 500 km (311 miles) or five hours.
One of five of its kind, the 180-kg (397-lb) Elektra One Solar was equipped with 280 solar cells on its upper wing surface, which provided about 30 percent of the electricity it required to fly. The rest came from its pre-charged 11.5-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. It has a continuous engine power of 16 kW, and can carry a maximum payload of 100 kg (220 lb) at a cruising speed of 100 km/h (62 mph).
For this trip, it was additionally equipped with a 3D landscape mapping camera.