Solar Impulse: Channeling the spirit of adventure

Adventurers and pioneers, Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg are the minds behind Solar Impulse, a Swiss-based project set on raising awareness of clean energy and progressing aeronautical technology in the process. After a successful series of flights with their first solar powered plane, Solar Impulse 1, the team developed a new and exciting goal: to attempt the first solar-powered flight around the world. Solar Impulse II is currently half-way through its monumental journey.

Having had outstanding results with Solar Impulse 1, including solar-powered flights across Europe, the Mediterranean as well as the USA, the team of aeronauts, engineers and solar power experts at Solar Impulse have painstakingly refined every component of their plane so that Solar Impulse2 will have the capacity to fly autonomously for 25 days. The plane weighs 2.3 tonnes and has a wing span of 72 meters, the same as a Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet. This large wing span allows the plane to glide using air currents and with little need for power. The plane is equipped with smaller batteries able to store solar power that will be used to fuel the plane at night and the wings are fitted with 17,000 solar panels in order to help power the plane during the hours of darkness.

The two pilots undertaking this ambitious project are the masterminds behind the project: Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg. Psychiatrist, balloonist and aeronaut, Lausanne-born Piccard was the first person to complete a non-stop balloon flight around the globe. Borschberg, Swiss businessman and pilot, was the first person to complete a 24-hour solar powered flight. Both are clearly committed to spirit of adventure and discovery with the ultimate hope that the Solar Impulse project will help raise awareness and educate people about the potential of clean energy and how clean energy, with the right technology, can be produced with little effort. The trip is physically grueling and Piccard and Borschberg are both at peak fitness. The cockpit has been designed to be as ergonomic as possible.

The Solar Impulse 2, or Si2 as it is known, started its round-the-world trip in Abu Dhabi in March, and will return at the end of July or in early August. The journey has already taken Si2 and the project team to Oman, Varanasi, India, and Nanjing, China. Weather conditions stalled progress in China but on May 26, 2015, Borschberg started the most challenging leg of the trip yet: an 8,000 km non-stop flight to Hawaii. The Si2 will make further stops in Phoenix and New York. A mid-west pit-stop is also planned but will only be confirmed at a later date depending on weather conditions.

Solar Impulse is made up of a group of ambitious adventurers and trailblazers, dedicated to science, technology and its advancement. There is no doubt that the success of this project will throw solar power into the spotlight and ensure that the brightest brains in Europe and the Middle East will start asking themselves exactly what else can be achieved with renewable energy. Sponsors include Google, Bayer, Moet Hennessey and Omega. Solar Impulse’s host partner is Masdar, an Abu Dhabi based renewable energy company known to pioneer future energy technologies.

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