In 2015 started the attempt of the First Round-The-World Solar Flight, from Abu Dhabi to Hawaii, already achieving the longest solo solar flight ever achieved in aviation history.
Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, our two Pilots and Founders, will continue to fly around the world with no fuel in 2016, rising up to technical, human and operational challenges that have never been faced before.
After the 8 world records set by the Solar Impulse prototype, when it became the first solar airplane ever to fly through the night, between two continents, and across the United States, Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg are not attemption the ultimate phase of the adventure: the 2015-2016 First Round-The-World Solar Flight.
35 000km from Abu Dhabi, our departure and arrival Host City, to India, Myanmar, China, Japan, U.S.A and back to Europe and Abu Dhabi. As with all great firsts, there are no benchmarks. Solar Impulse 2 will have to do what no airplane has ever done before: fly through 5 consecutive days and nights without using any fuel, so as to cross oceans from one continent to the next. Strategies have to be invented from scratch.Read more
Second half of the RTW delayed to April 2016
Following a historic first for aviation as well as for renewable energies — the first ever oceanic crossing by a solar airplane and record breaking flight from Japan to Hawaii, the Solar Impulse 2 of Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg will need to undergo a replacement of its overheated batteries and stay in Hawaii until next spring. The second half of the RTW is delayed to April 2016 due to damaged batteries
Solar Impulse is not the first solar airplane, but it is the first to fly day and night, without any fuel, only using energy stored in its batteries.
The wing span of a Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet, the weight of a family car, the power of a small motorcycle, it is the largest aircraft ever built with such a low weight.
« A giant step forward, sending a strong message to people around the world. »
Ban Ki-moon (UN secretary general)
Solar Impulse 2 was built to take up the challenge of achieving the first round-the-world solar flight. This revolutionary airplane has to do what no one has ever done before: fly through 5 consecutive days and nights without using any fuel, so as to cross oceans from one continent to the next. André Borschberg, at the controls, achieved such an oceanic crossing during his record-breaking flight from Nagoya to Hawaii.
Our challenge: to take an airplane to such a high efficiency level of energy efficiency that it can fly day and night relying only on the sun. This required the optimization of new kinds of technology and a drastic reduction in energy consumption. The components normally used in aircraft construction are far too heavy for Solar Impulse.
Solar Impulse’s 80 engineers and technicians, under André Borschberg’s leadership, have had to apply highly innovative solutions. What major civil and military aircraft makers thought impossible has been achieved by the ingenuity of a small team.
« Imagine energy reserves increasing during flight! To make this dream a reality, we had to make maximum use of every single watt supplied by the sun, and store it in our batteries. We tracked down every possible source of energy efficiency. »
The long flights of this adventure represent a challenge of endurance and vigilance for a single-pilot in an unheated and unpressurized 3.8m3 cockpit.
Crossing the Pacific and Atlantic oceans introduces a new kind of difficulty for our pilots Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg. The #RTW Solar Flight represents approx. a 35,000km journey. Although achieved in several legs, Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg will cumulate around 500 flight hours in the tiny cockpit.
The pilot must have exceptional stamina to control this plane which is sensitive to turbulence because of its broad wing and light weight.
« What is really special, is that it is the first and only airplane in the world which has unlimited endurance. We have an airplane which is fully sustainable in terms of energy, and our challenge now is to make the pilot sustainable as well. »
Even though the pilot is on his own in the plane, he is not alone. He is in contact by satellite with the Monaco Mission Control Center (MCC), where the team monitors the route and manage performance and energy. Weathermen, mathematicians, air traffic controllers, planning engineers, flight director ... all gathered to predict all possible scenarios and prepare a flight strategy.
« The MCC is an essential link for the success of Solar Impulse's round-the-world tour. This is where the decisions are made for the departure and routes of each stage. It is via the MCC that the pilot is in contact with the whole world. »
Landing on the biggest international airports with an experimental aircraft, no hangar big enough to house the aircraft... no problem for the ground crew. The men and women behind the scene make it possible for Si2 and its pilot to go around in a safe and secured way., organizing aircraft safety, movements, and technical tests and check-up in coordination with mission engineers at the MCC.
« The ground crew is a team of about 20 members dealing with a lot of things, mainly the handling on the aircraft from the hangar to takeooff, and at landings until the aircraft is safe into a hangar or its mobile hangar. Add a lot of uncertainties on international airports and you can be sure the team has a lot of challenges! But it is also an immense pleasure to be at the forefront. »
Nils Ryser, Head of Ground Crew
The Solar Impulse is not the first solar airplane ever designed, but it is certainly the most ambitious. None of its predecessors has ever managed to fly right through the night with a pilot on board.
Solar aviation began with model aircrafts in the 1970s, when affordable solar cells appeared on the market. But it was not until 1980 that the first human flights were realized.
« Solar Impulse was not built to carry passengers, but to carry messages. We want to demonstrate the importance of the pioneering spirit, to encourage people to question what they’ve always taken for granted. The world need to find new ways of improving the quality of life. Clean technologies and renewable forms of energy are part of the solution. »