Follow our #TestFlights

Get updates when we are flying during the following weeks.

Critical Design Review

How to be sure that we have thought of everything in terms of safety, how to ensure that we do all the necessary tests, how to avoid pitfalls in the development of a brand new plane?

This is what the CDR - Critical Design Review - is meant to achieve. Last week we brought together some of the best engineers from ...

ReadMore

How to be sure that we have thought of everything in terms of safety, how to ensure that we do all the necessary tests, how to avoid pitfalls in the development of a brand new plane?

This is what the CDR - Critical Design Review - is meant to achieve. Last week we brought together some of the best engineers from Dassault, a Partner of Solar Impulse, and other leading aerospace companies. The group was comprised of experts from a variety of disciplines such as structural analysis, aerodynamics, flight mechanics, electrical systems and avionics.
We exposed , showcased and explained all our designs, calculations and tests and then answered and responded to a flood of questions from an impressive external team of highly competent engineers who have many years of experiences.
Going through such an exercise means taking the risk of being criticized. But just as important, this is a unique opportunity to learn, to improve, to challenge and especially to avoid the potentially serious consequences of errors and failures.
Two days of passionate and exciting work, to refocus on new developments for this second plane, such as the " Stability Augmentation System", which would allow the pilot to rest during the flights over the Pacific Ocean - that will last several days and nights.

One more important step towards the end of the construction of HB -SIB scheduled for February 2014 !

Solar (Lego) Land

As Solar Impulse engineers slowly conclude most of the testing, many parts are laying scattered around the immense Dübendorf hangar. This is when, in the Making of process, the assembly of the solar airplane begins. Just like with Legos, the Production ...

ReadMore

As Solar Impulse engineers slowly conclude most of the testing, many parts are laying scattered around the immense Dübendorf hangar. This is when, in the Making of process, the assembly of the solar airplane begins. Just like with Legos, the Production and Workshop team, responsible for building the solar airplane, take the finished pieces and put them all together. Of course, there are some slight differences between a construction game and Solar Impulse. Our solar airplane is much larger, the parts don’t connect so easily and the people assembling the plane have long passed the days of fiddling around with brightly colored plastic cubes (well, I guess that’s just an assumption…)

Led by Martin Meyer, Production and Workshop is a team of seven. With additional support from partnering companies Décision (6 people), Ruppert Composite GmbH (2 people) and Sportec AG (1 person), they follow the blueprints and technical drawings of the design engineers and proceed to bring the two-dimensional sketches to life. They’re an extremely heterogeneous team consisting of carpenters, composite specialists, mold makers, mechanics and even a gardener not to mention a design engineer, Martin. This diversity is crucial in such a versatile team.

They’re not only responsible for assembling the solar airplane, they’re also responsible for building prototypes, like the human size wooden cockpit; or smaller parts that are too complicated to outsource, such as the iPad holder that will be integrated into HB-SIB’s cockpit or the solar panels. These “little” projects can actually amount to 80 orders a month!  But the most important requirement to integrate Martin’s team is to be an ingenious and diligent handyman (and prove you were a Lego fan in your childhood).

Larger parts are outsourced to our suppliers as we don’t have the infrastructure or human resources to follow. If the assembly requires gluing, like the ribs to the wing spar, the part might be retested afterwards to ensure the bonding process was successful.

Martin has become leader of this team less than a year ago as he was previously part of the design team. “As a design engineer, I had to be more creative in terms of finding a good solution to a technical issue. Now it’s more about organizing the work and dispatching it to people depending on their capabilities. But having design experience helps me detect where the problem is when it arises.”

I guess that a multi-colored, Lego-like solar plane could be an amusing sight, but would be too attractive for birds and bees – but why not a toy model? I’m sure if Lego made a miniature HB-SIB, their target consumers wouldn’t only be kids…   

 

Photo (left to right): Jürg Birkenstock (Ruppert Composite GmbH), Peter Schindler, Simon Wyss, Martin Meyer, Stefan Stadelmann, Rolf Meier (Sportec AG), Jakob Reck (Trainee), Daniel Kober, David Fankhauser (Ruppert Composite GmbH)

Keeping the airplane balanced

Have you ever started feeling tense when, during a flight, your drink starts shaking so much that it’s about to spill and, in a moment of panic, you glance out of the window to check the state of the wings? All sorts of scenarios rush through your mind and you pray the aeronautical engineers weren’t distracted when ...

ReadMore

Have you ever started feeling tense when, during a flight, your drink starts shaking so much that it’s about to spill and, in a moment of panic, you glance out of the window to check the state of the wings? All sorts of scenarios rush through your mind and you pray the aeronautical engineers weren’t distracted when building the plane.

Solar Impulse might not carry 300+ passengers, but the forces the solar plane has to withstand are proportionally the same as a commercial one: it’s physics. At Solar Impulse, the man that ensures the wings don’t collapse when strained in turbulence is our Loads Engineer, Richard Leblois. He calculates the main load pattern (the force the wings have to withstand during flight) for every single aircraft component.

Richard is present throughout the making of process. During the design phase he virtually attributes the loads to every part, via special software. Once the engineers agree on a part’s final blueprint, it’s sent into production. Let’s take the backbone of HB-SIB’s wing as an example, the wing spar: an ultra-light yet very large (over 70 meters long!) carbon fiber box. Once the wing spar is delivered, Richard works with the analysis team to simplify the tests while ensuring that the wing spar goes through all the necessary steps to be declared flight-ready. This means that real-world situations must be simulated with an intricate game of weights, test jigs and forces. Richard calculates those variables and subsequently helps develop the jigs.

Unlike other engineers on the team, Richard only gets the confirmation that his calculations were correct once he sees the plane in flight. Think of your shaking drink… Just kidding! That’s what test flights are for.

Richard has a critical role second role as the weight and balance calculator where his responsibility is to track the aircraft’s mass and center of gravity to guarantee aircraft stability. That’s when Richard laughs and says: “I basically create my own destiny: if I define the loads too high at the beginning of the process, the part will be too heavy and could become an issue for me later during the Weight and Balance assessment.”

But rest assured, when you see how far up the wings are bent during the structural tests, you would never again panic. You would simply proceed to sip you drink, relaxed, and try to enjoy the turbulent flight.


LoadMore