A French-built solar-powered blimp is bidding to be the first in the world to cross the English Channel; watch the blimp land at Lydd airport, or follow its progress on the internet.


In a world first, a solar-powered blimp is set to cross the English Channel on Wednesday, June 30 according to Arnaud Vaillant, treasurer of Project Sol'R.

Project Sol'R gathered together students from various schools and universities to try and build a solar-powered airship.

Called Nephelios, the blimp was designed and built by high school engineering students in France.  The airship, which was initially due to launch last year, measures 72 feet (21.9 m)  in length and 18 feet (5.5 m) in width, the semi-flexible solar cells generate up to 2.4 kilowatts and can keep the blimp moving at speeds of up to 25 mph (40 km/h).

The solar cells power two propellers attached underneath the airship; the one manned craft piloted by Frenchman Bastien Lefrançois, aged 27, will take off from Wissant, France, and land in the south of England at Lydd airport in Kent a few miles from the coast. Nephelios is expected to cross the channel in under an hour.  

Lydd airport has arranged a small viewing area, free of charge, for members of the public who wish to watch the Nephelios land. The event can also be followed on the Project Sol'R Facebook page or on their blog at www.projetsolr.info/ .

The airship is also developing a following on Twitter.