Solar Impulse Team Unveils New Aircraft For 2015 World Tour
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
The Solar Impulse team of Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg are currently planning their next adventure – an around-the-world adventure in an aircraft powered solely by the energy of the sun. In an effort to realize that dream, they have unveiled their latest plane that will make that flight: Solar Impulse 2.
According to an emailed statement, “Solar Impulse is the product of an alliance between two men to fulfill a project deemed impossible by industry experts.”
Between Piccard and Borschberg, it has taken more than 12 years of calculations, simulations, construction and testing to arrive at today’s launch of SI2 – the most revolutionary aircraft yet that will make a round-the-world journey in 2015.
“A vision counts for nothing unless it is backed up by action. With 8 world records for Solar Impulse 1, the first solar aircraft capable of flying during the night, crossing two continents and flying over the United States, we have shown that clean technologies and renewable energies can accomplish the impossible,” said Piccard, founder and Chairman of Solar Impulse.
“Now we need to go even further,” added Borschberg, co-founder and CEO. “Solar Impulse 2 will have virtually unlimited autonomy, and now we need to make sure the pilot is as sustainable as his aircraft. This is why the round-the-world flight will be as much a human as a technological feat.”
To complete this seemingly “impossible” journey, SI2 will have to accomplish what no other aircraft has achieved before: flying non-stop without fuel for as many as five consecutive nights across the world’s oceans. This major challenge is what the latest aircraft was specifically built for.
The single-seat aircraft has a huge wingspan of 236 feet and weighs about 5,000 pounds. The weight in regard to its size will give SI2 the aerodynamic performance and energy efficiency greater than anything built to date. The cockpit has been carefully designed for a pilot to live there for as long as a week. However, for the sake of maximum energy efficiency, the cabin is not pressurized or heated, which will also be a major challenge for the pilot.
The team is already planning for test flights beginning in May, followed by training flights over Switzerland. The first attempt to begin the World Tour is set for March 2015. The tentative route will take SI2 and the team from the Gulf region, crossing the Arabian Sea, India, Burma, China, the Pacific Ocean, the United States, the Atlantic Ocean, and then onto southern Europe or North Africa, before closing the loop by returning to the Gulf region. Landings will take place every few days to change pilots and organize public events.
Earlier this week the Solar Impulse team signed a deal with ABB, the leading power and automation technology group, which will support the 2015 World Tour.
“This partnership brings together two Swiss-based global leaders that are passionate about pushing the boundaries of technology and innovation to achieve a better world,” said ABB CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer. “We believe in Bertrand’s vision, and we are convinced that by pioneering innovative technologies we will be able to decouple economic growth from energy consumption and environmental impact. Today, ABB is a global leader for solutions to enable energy efficiency, sustainable transportation and renewables and like Solar Impulse we are always challenging the boundaries of what is technologically possible.”
“It was my dream to have ABB as technology partner of Solar Impulse,” said Piccard. “We have the same goal of improving the world by using energy more efficiently and conserving natural resources.”
“Solar Impulse and ABB are technology innovators and pioneers,” said Borschberg. “We both want to motivate people to use clean technologies; ABB and Solar Impulse will work together on key technologies like power electronics for our mutual benefit.”
ABB is a global leader in renewables, sustainable transportation and energy efficiency. The company is the world’s second-largest supplier of solar inverters and one of the largest suppliers to the wind-power industry.
ABB invested more than $1.5 billion in research and development in 2013 and has 8,500 technologists worldwide, according to an emailed statement.