World's First Battery-Powered Plane Flies In Japan

The world's first manned plane powered by conventional dry-cell batteries soared five meters (16 feet) above the ground in a demonstration flight in Japan July 16. The glider-like plane with a single-seat gondola and a 31-meter (102 feet) wingspan was powered by 160 AA "Oxyride" batteries which have been produced by Japan's Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. since April 2004.

It soared as high as 5.2 meters, stayed in the air for 59 seconds and covered a distance of 391 meters (428 yards) at a private airport owned by Honda Motor Co.

The Institute of Technology, known for its experiments with human-powered planes, and the giant electronics firm launched a joint project to develop the battery-powered plane in January, said Matsushita spokesman Kazuhiko Zushi. In April the joint team completed the plane and succeeded in rolling and taxiing the aircraft in its first test flight. In the second test the plane soared two meters above ground and flew some 400 meters "almost independently," Zushi said.

Sunday's flight was the first in the presence of officials from the Japan Aeronautic Association. "This was officially the world's first manned flight powered by dry-cell batteries," Zushi said.

The Oxyride battery is a long-lasting battery said to be 1.5 times as powerful as a regular alkaline battery.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2006

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