Solar Impulse Completes Historic Flight From Japan to Hawaii Without Fuel

 (3BL Media/Justmeans) - Back in January, I was in Abu Dhabi, where I had the opportunity to see the Solar Impulse airplane and meet the pilots as they prepared to begin their historic round-the-world flight, the first of its kind.

On July 3rd, I watched on my computer, courtesy of the Solar Impulse website as the plane landed in Hawaii, completing a 5-day Pacific crossing from Nagoya, Japan. Andre Borschberg’s four day and 22 hour flight was the longest solo flight in aviation history. Of course, a flight like this would never have been possible with any kind of conventional airplane, because of the amount of fuel that would be required. In all, the flight covered 5,128 miles.

The crossing had been postponed twice as the weather failed to cooperate. The ultralight airplane, with a wingspan comparable to a 747, yet weighing little more than an SUV, requires reasonably stable weather conditions to operate in. Throughout the journey, the team has carried the banner of clean energy. Borschberg’s Solar Impulse partner, Bertrand Piccard, was on hand to greet him as the plane landed, just outside of Honolulu. It was Piccard who had the original vision back in 1999, to build a solar airplane that could fly around the world.

In order to make the most of the energy stored in its batteries during the day, the plane climbs to its maximum altitude of 28,000 at dusk, storing an additional two hours of gliding time.

A number of technology companies including Solvay, Schindler, Omega, Bayer, Altran, and Google have sponsored the project and developed critical components to improve the energy efficiency and reduce the weight of the plane, without which the mission would not have been possible. Indeed none of the conventional aircraft manufacturers got involved in the project, because, frankly, they didn’t believe it could be done.  Among the dozens of innovations produced by the project were ultralight insulation that will soon be going into refrigerators, improvements to motors and batteries, and the development of light but strong plastic parts to replace heavier metal ones used in conventional aircraft.

Solar Impulse Inspires as it Blazes New Frontiers

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - As if there wasn't  enough to see here already at Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, the area was blessed with the appearance of a rare migrating bird, the Solar Impulse, resting up in preparation for a historic journey of truly epic proportions.
The two Swiss pilots, and founders of Solar Impulse, Bertrand Piccard, and Andre Borschberg are getting ready to set out to do what no one has ever done before—to fly around the world, covering 21,000 miles in a heavier than air craft, without using a single drop of fuel, relying entirely on the power of the sun. The plane will fly both day and night using energy stored in batteries to sustain power at night till the sun reappears each morning.
The plane, the Si2, is the second iteration of the Solar Impulse. Its wings, which extend 236 feet, longer than those of a Boeing 747, will be covered with 17,248 monocrystalline silicon solar cells that will provide the power. These cells were specifically developed for this craft, being extra-light, extra-thin (135 microns), highly efficient (23%) and capable of withstanding the necessary extremes in temperature that they will likely encounter.
While the plane is as large as a jumbo jet. it weighs little more than a family car (5,070 pounds), itself a miracle of space age materials. The four electric motors can produce a total of 70 HP, allowing the craft to putter along at a leisurely pace of about 20 miles per hour. This lean operation allows the craft to store enough energy to stay aloft through the night, meaning it could stay aloft indefinitely were it not for the fact that the pilots need to come down for food and drink.
Coming down for a pit stop, is in fact, the only way the pilots can change places since the quarters are so tight they can't switch with the cockpit closed. Each man, will typically be at the helm for 20 consecutive hours, the typical length of each leg.

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