Solar Impulse 2 (Si2), the solar-powered airplane able to fly all day and all night without using a drop of fuel, is ready to resume its record-breaking round-the-world flight from Hawaii. Swiss pioneers Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg will alternate flying the sun-powered airplane. After spending eight months to replace batteries that overheated on the cross-pacific leg from Japan and run maintenance flights, the Si2 is ready for takeoff and the team is scouring weather data to identify the first favorable weather window between April 15 and May 15 that would allow Piccard to fly to the west coast of the United States. The goal of the endeavor is to demonstrate how clean technologies can achieve what was thought to be impossible.
André Borschberg landed in Hawaii in the Si2 after a record-breaking 117-hour, 52-minute nonstop solar-powered flight of 8,900 kilometers across the Pacific Ocean from Japan on July 3, 2015 that captured the world’s imagination. Borschberg was tired yet in good shape after staying awake almost all of five days and nights on the longest solo flight ever but the airplane’s batteries suffered damage due to overheating that forced an eight-month interruption to the Round-The-World flight. The crew could not repair the batteries quickly enough to resume the Round-The-World Flight before the end of the season with favorable weather conditions. The plane is now ready to resume its journey around the world.
“As we experienced many times with Solar Impulse, obstacles often turn out to be opportunities for improvement,” explained André Borschberg, CEO and Co-Founder. “Ultimately, this time was used to recreate the strong mindset within the team to continue our adventure. It takes sometimes more time to build up the right spirit then to develop new technologies.”
Between late February and mid-April 2016, Si2 comple! ted a to tal of 13 flights. Three maintenance flights, carried out by Solar Impulse’s test pilot, confirmed the performance of the aircraft and proper functioning of the new cooling system. They were followed by a series of training flights by both pilots: three by Borschberg, and seven by Piccard, including a high-altitude flight, in order to prepare for the second long leg of the Pacific crossing.
“An airplane with perpetual flight endurance, without fuel, like the Solar Impulse is not only a first in the history of aviation, but also in the history of energy,” emphasized Piccard, Initiator and Chairman of the project. “The primary purpose of this adventure is to demonstrate that modern clean technologies can achieve the impossible and encourage everyone to use these same energy efficient solutions on the ground in their daily lives for mobility, construction, lighting, heating, cooling and more.
As soon as the weather conditions are right, Si2 will resume its Round-The-World Solar Flight and take off for the US West Coast with Piccard at the controls. The team is examining four potential destinations: Phoenix, the San Francisco area, Los Angeles and Vancouver. Based on the learning’s of 2015, the decision was made to expand the range of potential destinations to leave a maximum flexibility for route planning. The final landing place will be chosen a couple of days before departure depending on the weather conditions. The mission will then continue onward to New York, then Europe or North Africa and Abu Dhabi where it all started.
Solar Impulse Facts
Swiss pioneers Bertrand Piccard – Initiator and Chairman – and André Borschberg – CEO and Co-Founder – are the pilots and driving force behind Solar Impulse, the first airplane able to fly day and night without a drop of fuel – propelled solely by the sun’s energy.
Si2 is a concentration of clean technologies – a genuine flying laboratory. It is! a singl e-seater aircraft made of carbon fiber that has a 72m / 236ft wingspan (larger than a Boeing 747) for a weight of 2,300kg / 5,100lb (roughly the equivalent of a family car). The 17,248 solar cells built into the wing power the four batteries (38.5kWh per battery) that in turn power the four electric engines (13.5kW / 17.5hp each) and the propellers with renewable energy. The plane is therefore capable of saving a maximum amount of energy during the day and flying through the night on battery power. Si2 requires zero fuel and has virtually unlimited autonomy: theoretically, Si2 could fly forever and is only limited by the pilot’s endurance.