The only airplane of perpetual endurance, able to fly day and night on solar power, without a drop of fuel.
Our challenge is to attempt the First Round-The-World Solar Flight in 2015. A way for Bertrand Piccard, André Borschberg and their team to demonstrate how pioneering spirit, innovation and clean technologies can change the world.
And you, would you like to a be a pioneer in your own life?
A family heritage of exploration and pioneering spirit. A vision born in Bertrand Piccard's mind after the success of the first non-stop round the world balloon flight. The friendship with André Borschberg, engineer and entrepreneur, who leads the technical team. The commitment of 2 men who want to move the world.
The construction of the prototype: Solar Impulse 1. The development of Solar Impulse 2, the boldest airplane of our time. The attempt to achieve the first Round-The-World Solar Flight. The incredible technological and human challenges.
Before the attempt of flying around the world in 2015 with Solar Impulse 2, the first prototype already achieved successful flight missions across Europe, Morocco, and the United States. Each landing was the opportunity to reach out to governments, NGOs, universities and schools to spread the message about clean technologies.
«With each of their great "firsts", the explorers of the last century constantly pushed back the limits of the impossible. Today, the drive to make new discoveries must go on, with the aim of improving the quality of life on our planet.»
The Solar Impulse Round-The-World-Flight is a unique mission showing how clean technologies and renewable energies can accomplish the impossible. It aims to inspire people across all nations to unite behind one common goal: the commitment to a more sustainable future.
“Solar Impulse was not built to carry passengers but to carry messages. We want to demonstrate the importance of innovation and pioneering spirit, to encourage people to question their old certitudes and habits. The world needs to implement new ways of improving the quality of human life. Clean technologies and renewable forms of energy are part of the solution, as they can simultaneously protect the environment and create jobs and profit for the industry.” Bertrand Piccard
Being an idea born in Switzerland, Solar Impulse creates an opportunity to deepen ties between Switzerland and the People’s Republic of China, which will celebrate the 65th anniversary of their bilateral relations in 2015.
With innovation and clean technology firmly rooted at the heart of its economic development strategy, it is no coincidence that China is one of the key partners working hand in hand with Solar Impulse for the success of this Round-The-World Solar Flight.
Furthermore, Solar Impulse is excited to announce its partnership with Sina, one of the top media companies in China.
“We believe that science and technology play a fundamental role for achieving the Chinese dream. Solar Impulse is a powerful symbol for change and as a leading online portal in China we hope to help inspire particularly our younger generation about what innovation and a pioneering spirit can make possible. Sina will commit considerable resources to help spread Solar Impulse’s message across a wide range of social media and digital platforms” says Deputy Editor in Chief, Ms. Zhao Tian from Sina.
And André Borschberg to continue: "By joining forces, Sina and Solar Impulse are given the opportunity to bring inspiration to millions of people with the scientific exploration of the Round the World Solar Flight. Equally, I am especially thankful to the Chinese government enthusiasm to help bring solar impulse to China in order to demonstrate together the potential of clean technologies.”
Last week, Si2 was on the runway performing a low-speed taxi to test the stability of the retractable outriggers - the wheels either side of the cockpit that keep the airplane horizontal on the ground. The airplane could have taken off for a short final test flight, but the cloud base was unfortunately not obliging to these intentions. The team was again grateful for the supporters on the public hill, who had come out for one last glimpse of Si2 in its Swiss home, and they celebrated the final outing with a (Swiss) chocolate model of the aircraft, as pictured!
Back in the hangar, the electrical team still upgrade flight systems on Si2. The entire workshop has worked to a tight deadline to get Si2 prepared for the Round-The-World, and these continued improvements will enhance the likelihood of a successful mission in 2015.
Simultaneously, the team begins a careful disassembly of the aircraft, with the component parts removed and packaged up for their transit to the UAE. The hangar floor becomes covered with carefully labelled items as the workshop team create a giant jigsaw puzzle of pieces that demonstrates just how many components have been specifically crafted for this innovative airplane. The pressure is on: any one of these pieces that goes missing could hold up the entire flight next year!
One of the last steps in the three week process will be to dismantle the 72m long wing into three sectionstwo 23.5m wing tips and a 25m centre span. Once separated, the wing sections are to be mounted onto jigs that protect them as they are loaded into a cargo plane : this will be quite a sight when it happens at the beginning of January! Joining the wing sections will be the tail, fuselage and cockpit shell, again with the utmost care for the structure and solar cell covering.
The mission team builds up their knowledge about Si2’s handling and performance from each flight, and the memory of the spar failure in 2012 serves to show how fine the line of testing this innovative technology is. Indeed, as the team flew Across America in 2013, a tear in the wing of Solar Impulse 1 caused the flight to make a swift landing.
“Testing Si2 has been a complex task and a great achievement for the entire Solar Impulse team,” said André Borschberg. “Safety is always a critical question. As we try something new we never know entirely what could happen. Only a step by step approach helps to reduce the risk but time pressure makes it very difficult”.
Both André and Bertrand practice freefall training in a wind tunnel located in Sion, Switzerland: this is just one of the exercises that the pilots go through in preparation for a mid-air emergency. The team also undertakes a 3-day sea survival training in Nordholz, Germany, to brace them for the conditions that a pilot may face in case of a bail out over water.
“We push the boundaries of the unknown in order to inspire, and to demonstrate what others say is impossible, ” said Bertrand Piccard. “Our thoughts remain with our friends of Virgin Galactic at this difficult time, and we maintain our admiration for their spirit of adventure and innovation”.
In order to explore, we have to face the uncertainties of flight. The entire team works tirelessly to best prepare for the unknowns of this extreme adventure. The upcoming Round-the-World will, for sure, present challenges that push the aircraft, pilots and team to their limits: stay tuned!
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«Just imagine your 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, storing any surplus in our batteries.»
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the First Round-The-World Solar Flight in 2015.