Next month the world’s first solar-powered blimp will take flight over the English Channel. The "Sol'R" project is the brainchild of some 30 French university-level engineering and business students. The blimp, called Nephelios, represents more than a year of work and collaboration between ESSEC Business School, the Institut National des Sciences Appliquées, the Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Arts et Métiers and the Ecole Polytechnique Féminine.
Unveiled in June at the Paris Air Show, the flight next month comes 100 years after the first flight across the English Channel made by Louis Blériot. The avant-garde Nephelios measures 72 feet in length, 18 feet in diameter and can go up to 25 miles per hour. The students behind the blimp hope that this eco-friendly aircraft will be used for scientific missions and surveillance, and after future improvements and modifications, for freight transport, aerial observation, tourism, and telecommunications.