The Solar Impulse 2, a plane fueled only by solar panels, spent two days flying across the Pacific and landed triumphantly in California on Sunday, completing the latest leg of the first attempt to circumnavigate the world using only solar power.
What is Solar Impulse?
Solar Impulse is a Swiss long-range experimental solar-powered aircraft project, and also the name of the project’s two operational aircraft. The privately financed project is led by Swiss engineer and businessman André Borschberg and Swiss psychiatrist and aeronaut Bertrand Piccard, who co-piloted Breitling Orbiter 3, the first balloon to circle the world non-stop. The Solar Impulse project intends to achieve the first circumnavigation of the Earth by a piloted fixed-wing aircraft using only solar power.
The aircraft are single-seat monoplanes powered by photovoltaic cells (solar cells) and capable of taking off under their own power. The prototype, often referred to as Solar Impulse 1, was designed to remain airborne up to 36 hours. It conducted its first test flight in December 2009. In July 2010, it flew an entire diurnal solar cycle, including nearly nine hours of night flying, in a 26-hour flight. Piccard and Borschberg completed successful solar-powered flights from Switzerland to Spain and then Morocco in 2012, and conducted a multi-stage flight across the United States in 2013.
A second aircraft, completed in 2014 and named Solar Impulse 2, carries more solar cells and more powerful motors, among other improvements. In March 2015, Piccard and Borschberg began an attempt to circumnavigate the globe with Solar Impulse 2, departing from Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. The aircraft was scheduled to return to Abu Dhabi in August 2015 after a multi-stage journey. By June 2015, the plane had traversed Asia, and in July 2015, it completed the longest leg of its journey, from Japan to Hawaii. During that leg, however, the aircraft’s batteries experienced thermal damage that took months to repair. The Solar Impulse resumed the circumnavigation on 21 April 2016 landing near San Francisco, California, on April 23.
Aim of Solar Impulse
The two record breaking solo flights of André Borschberg from Nagoya to Hawaii and Bertrand Piccard from Hawaii to San Francisco give a clear message: Everybody could use the same technologies on the ground to halve our world’s energy consumption, save natural resources and improve our quality of life.
It is a bold challenge and a meaningful adventure around the world to encourage people to protect our quality of life by using energy efficiency and renewable energies especially solar energy.