Solar-Powered Flight: A 2015 Journey Around the World

Solar-Impulse-viewAt Solarrific, we try to stay abreast of new developments in the world of alternative energy, specifically when it comes to solar advancements.

That said, we’ve been watching in awe over the past several months as the Solar Impulse 2 (Si2) began its mission to circumnavigate the world—exclusively by use of solar power.

The History of Flight

When one looks at the history of flight and exploration, it seems there has been little in terms of recent momentous aeronautic innovation that has served to inspire modern society.

We can likely recall such events as the Wright Brothers’ first flight (December 17, 1903) or the first man to land on the moon (Neil Armstrong, July 20, 1969). For some, these are fond memories, for others, pages from a history textbook. This begs the question—what new flight technology is there to inspire the world and to create new memories and inspiration for people today?

The answer is: plenty.

The Next—Solar—Frontier

The name Bertrand Piccard may ring a bell. He was one of the men responsible for the first non-stop voyage to circumnavigate the world in a hot air balloon in March 1999. Since then, he has worked with fellow pilot and founder André Borschberg to bring his vision to fruition: to build a solar-powered aircraft that uses no fuel that is capable of circumnavigating the world.

The former has been achieved with the Solar Impulse 2 (Si2), and the latter is already in the works. (To learn more, watch Piccard’s 2010 Ted Talk here.)

The Si2 is capable of flying during the day and at night without need for fuel outside of its massive panel of over 17,000 solar cells that power lithium batteries. Piccard and Borschberg work with a team of approximately 90 engineers, mission controllers and technicians to accomplish research, testing and development of the airplane.

Fun Facts about the Si2
  • The Si2 has a wingspan that is larger than a Jumbo Jet, yet weighs less than your average SUV.
  • Piccard and Borschberg will alternate turns flying the aircraft for 5-6 consecutive days at a time each.
  • The pilot is in an unpressurized/unheated cabin that is temperature-controlled using high-density thermal insulation.
  • The pilot’s seat is equipped to handle multi-day (five to six days at a time) ergonomic needs including reclining, toileting and has even been used for in-flight yoga!
Where’s the Si2 Today?

On March 9th, 2015, the Si2 began its journey around the world with a take-off from Abu Dhabi. There will be 13 legs to the journey, and the Si2 is currently on its 7th leg in Nagoya, Japan (as of today’s date).

Solar-Impulse-cockpit

The aircraft is set to take off for Hawaii as soon as a weather window has been identified. Information about the current location of the aircraft, along with captain’s log can be found here. You can also sign up for their newsletter for periodic updates or contribute to the cause by purchasing your own solar cell.

For more information about the Si2 and its journey, head to www.solarimpulse.com.

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