Solar Impulse deserves the attention

Solar Impulse started its solar fueled trip around the world today, taking off from Abu Dhabi and heading for Muscat. Solar Impulse deserves all the attention it gets.

The trip around the world, piloted by Swiss pioneers Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg is expected to last a total of 25 days, spread over 4 to 5 month period. Crossing vast distances – such as the Indian Ocean and the Pacific, the aircraft will stay airborne for six day at a time – that is record breaking at any rate.

Solar Impulse is a revolutionary single-seater aircraft made of carbon fiber. measuring a 72 meter wingspan – larger than that of the Boeing 747-8. But whereas the Jumbo Jet has an empty weight of about 200,000 kg, Solar Impulse just weighs 2,300 kg, equivalent to an above average car. The 17,000 solar cells built into the wing supply four electric motors (17.5 cv each) with renewable energy. In sunlight, the solar cells recharge lithium batteries weighing 633 kg (2077 lbs.) which allow the aircraft to fly at night and therefore to have virtually unlimited autonomy.

Reality
Solar Impulse first flew in Switzerland on 26 July 2009, A year later, the first ‘solar charged’ night flight became a reality, when the aircraft stayed up for 26 hours, breaking records while doing so. In 2013, Solar Impulse crossed the United States, flying from Phoenix to New York.

The flightplan for the round-the-world trip includes stop overs in China, the United States and in Southern Europe or North Africa, before returning to Abu Dhabi in the summer of 2015. The flight will without a doubt make headlines, and rightfully so. Efforts such as this one by Boeing or this one by Airbus never did. You need a breakthrough to get attention to the fact that – despite current tumbling oil prices – alternative, renewable energy sources are the only way forward.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest

That's some wingspan! (Image © Solar Impulse)
That’s some wingspan! (Image © Solar Impulse)
Solar Impulse, seen at Payerne airfield in Switzerland, where most of the test flying was done.  (Image © Solar Impulse)
Solar Impulse, seen at Payerne airfield in Switzerland, where most of the test flying was done. (Image © Solar Impulse)
A view of the solar cells covered wings. (Image © Solar Impulse)
A view of the solar cells covered wings. (Image © Solar Impulse)
(Image © Solar Impulse)
Pilots Bertrand Piccard (left) and Andre Borschberg. (Image © Solar Impulse)