CBS News 60 Minutes Solar Impulse Dec 2012

Watch Solar Impulse on one of America’s best news programs watched by 13 million viewers every week , 60 Minutes of CBS, for a little sneak preview about next year’s scheduled adventure in the United States.   The journalist Bob Simon and his team visited Solar Impulse at the beginning of 2012 for the shooting of the new piece. 


2012: World’s first solar-powered intercontinental flight

A thrilling year for Solar Impulse starting with a simulation of a 72-hour flight and culminating in the decoration of André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard by King Mohammed VI after completing world’s first fully solar-powered intercontinental flight. While HB-SIA, piloted alternately by André Borschberg and Bertrand ...

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A thrilling year for Solar Impulse starting with a simulation of a 72-hour flight and culminating in the decoration of André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard by King Mohammed VI after completing world’s first fully solar-powered intercontinental flight. While HB-SIA, piloted alternately by André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard, made its way this summer from Payerne (Switzerland) to Ouarzazate (Morocco) with intermediate stops in Madrid (Spain) and Rabat (Morocco), Solar Impulse’s team of engineers continued the construction of HB-SIB, Solar Impulse’s second generation aircraft.

February

  • February 24: Successful simulation of a 72-hour flight (3 days and 3 nights).

May

  • May 7: Bertrand Piccard’s last test flight before the 2012 Crossing Frontiers Mission flights.
  • May 11: Launching of Solar Impulse’s new website.
  • May 21: Structural testing of HB-SIB’s gondola in Dübendorf.
  • May 25: First leg of Solar Impulse’s first intercontinental flight begins. HB-SIA lands successfully in Madrid.

June

  • June 6: Solar Impulse completes its first intercontinental flight and lands in Rabat, on Moroccan soil.
  • June 13: HB-SIA takes off for first attempt to reach Ouarzazate, the doorstep to the Moroccan desert.
  • June 22: Solar Impulse triumphantly lands in Ouarzazate to the beat of traditional Berber music happily concluding its 2nd attempt to reach its destination in Southern Morocco.
  • June 28: HB-SIA returns to Rabat after a week of events in Ouarzazate, and begins its return home.

July

  • July 5: Wing spar of HB-SIB cracks and the final structural test fails.
  • July 7: Solar Impulse lands in Madrid.
  • July 17: HB-SIA lands in Toulouse-Francazal airport.
  • July 24: The Solar Impulse team concludes the world’s first roundtrip, fully solar-powered intercontinental flight by landing safely at its home base in Payerne, Switzerland. The 2012 Crossing Frontiers mission flights conclude to the sounds of Switzerland’s traditional Alphorn music.

August

  • August 30: André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard receive a decoration by King Mohammed VI for their courage and efforts to promote the Moroccan solar program with their flight to Rabat and Ouarzazate.

How to conceive a solar airplane

This is the first of a series of articles about the construction of Solar Impulse’s second generation aircraft, HB-SIB, providing a step-by-step “behind the scenes” presentation. More specifically, I will introduce the different teams involved in the project. I will start from the first step necessary for the development ...

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This is the first of a series of articles about the construction of Solar Impulse’s second generation aircraft, HB-SIB, providing a step-by-step “behind the scenes” presentation. More specifically, I will introduce the different teams involved in the project. I will start from the first step necessary for the development of a solar airplane: the concept. Why does HB-SIA look the way it does? And how will its big brother look like? These questions, although seemingly simple, required careful research and analysis.

I had a chat with Peter Frei, Head of Conceptual Design and Aerodynamics at Solar Impulse. A friend of André’s from their days in the Swiss Air Force, Peter Frei has been on the project from the start. He participated in the first meetings at the Federal Polytechnic University in Lausanne (EPFL) where simulations and calculations confirmed that HB-SIA would have to be an airplane and not in airship in order to fly with solar energy alone. 

Designing an airplane is a multidisciplinary process. It starts from a set of specifications given by the person with the idea and objectives. Bertrand wanted to fly around the world solely on solar energy. To achieve this, the engineers already had an indication about the power source, the flight specifications (to fly across Oceans, for example) and the minimum weight requirements such as: a manned solar aircraft able to fly at night, with batteries capable of storing energy, with provisions for the pilot, and so on. The general concept trigged Peter’s curiosity, convincing him to use his extensive engineering experience to find solutions for these strict requirements. Curiosity and creativity, as well as team work, are the key ingredients for designing an initial concept. Ideas must be challenged and the only way to find lighter, cheaper and more efficient solutions is to engage in critical thought with others.

Jotting down the first concept for a solar aircraft is a long process and many people need to be involved. For HB-SIB this process took over a year while for HB-SIA it took even longer because it was the first of its kind. Three dimensional sketches and simple hand calculations are the tools these skillful men start with to adequately develop ideas for further discussion in an engineering team.

Peter was always fascinated by airplanes. Even as a child he used to build models. It’s the physics behind flight vehicles that intrigue him and one of the main reasons why working to develop the world’s first solar aircraft to fly day and night was an inspiring feat. Him and one of his former students, Roger Ruppert had to decide how far they dared to extrapolate their experience with ultra-light materials and how large of a wing span they were prepared to handle in reality, conscious that they had to go beyond  the size of existing airplanes.

Although HB-SIA and HB-SIB will visibly be from the same family, they remain fundamentally different. The new airplane is an optimized and more complex version of its older brother. It will be larger (by 11%), it will be able to carry more weight, it will be more resistant to humid climates and, most importantly, the pilot will be much more comfortable during some of the longer legs, which could last up to several days. But you will discover these differences in the upcoming series, so stay tuned!

Follow the series here: “THE MAKING OF A SOLAR AIRPLANE”


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