On the road again!
Solar Impulse 2 (Si2) is getting ready to get back on the world skies for the second act by the end of April 2016, after its scheduled tour around the world was interrupted on July 3, 2015 due to the overheating of the engine’s batteries.
Several components of the batteries were damaged and as they aren’t standard products (higher energy storage capacity of 260 Wh/kg), they did not have enough spare parts to repair them. Upgraded components are now being produced, and to prevent the overheating the team engineers have integrated a cooling system. Necessity is the mother of invention as they say!
The dream of Swiss pilots Bernard Piccard and Andre Borschberg has been temporarily put on hold, as the pioneer flight will resume in April, weather permitting, after having spent the winter in its special hangar in Kalaeloa airport in Hawaii (see photo to the right), covered with space blankets to protect it from UV radiation. The idea is to wait for the days to become longer to allow the plane to store the maximum of energy to provide activity during the night. The first resumption flight will last four hours over the Pacific, departing from Hawaii to rejoin the West coast of the USA, with Piccard at the wheel.
Statement from Bernard Piccard
Cleantech as a way to save natural resources
Si2 flying around the Earth is nor only a technological achievement as it is the first airplane using solar energy, but it also represents the chimera of a man ready advocating cleantech and a mission to change the world. Bertrand Piccard, the inventor of Solar Impulse, medical doctor, adventurer, scientist and entrepreneur, together with experienced Swiss pilot Andre Borschberg and 150 employees, has as a mission to aid in the fight against climate change and in doing so save our planet, in line with his family’s tradition of scientific and protection of the environment. If an airplane can fly day and night with no fuel, everybody could use these same technologies on the ground to save natural resources, integrating them into our daily lives. Solar Impulse 2 is flying laboratory and the pilots are an incredible human research center.
Dynamic duo with a mission to save the planet
Piccard and Borschberg both flying in extreme conditions in an unpressurized and unheated cockpit for long hours, is proof of their incredible stamina, tolerance and alertness. The combined effort and alliance as well as their complementarity are key to the success of this historic mission. But let’s not forget there is a whole team of qualified professionals beside them from the Mission Control Center with headquarters in Monaco, sharing their epic challenge. Their job is to anticipate and develop strategies, to prepare, track and receive the aircraft, and not least to communicate and spread news about the venture.
Piccard, the first man to complete a non-stop balloon flight around the world, the visionary behind the only airplane capable of flying day and night without a drop of fuel, last December 2015 was designated the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) Goodwill Ambassador, adding this recognition to the prestigious Champion of the Earth award received by UNEP in 2012. Piccard and Borschberg participated actively in the COP 21 conference in Paris advocating for an ambitious climate change agreement and a higher uptake of renewable energy.
From Abu Dhabi to Hawaii on 8 stages
After an intense preparation, training and simulations, Solar Impulse 2 took off from Abu Dhabi to Muscat on March 9, 2015 with Borschberg at the controls for the first stage of the first round-the-world expedition in a solar powered plane.
Bernard Piccard met Andre Borschberg in Oman and took over to continue the solo flight across the Arabian Sea and part of Pakistan. It was then the turn to Borschberg to fly from Ahmedabad to Varanasi, then Piccard made two consecutive flights going from Varanasi to Mandalay, and then on to Chongqing in China, making history when the first solar airplane ever to enter China. Held up 3 weeks by the weather in Chongqing, it was difficult to find a good slot to reach Nanjing, making this leg the trickiest. In Nanjing and Monaco, the team was busy preparing to attempt the Pacific crossing.
On May 31, Borschberg set off towards Hawaii. After 44 hours of flight, the suddenly bad weather forecasts forced the mission control center to divert the plane to Nagoya in Japan. After landing the team raced against time to secure the aircraft against gale-force winds and erect a mobile hangar. The uncooperative weather kept Si2 glued to the ground for another month. Finally there was a window of good weather and Borschberg took the plane to Hawaii on the longest solo flight in an airplane in extreme conditions, facing 5 days and nights before he could hope to land, the experienced pilot gave prove of his exceptional concentration that enabled him to fly longer without fuel than any jet plane in history Solar Impulse 2 reached Hawaii breaking all records in historic Pacific flight, safely landing on June 28 2015.
Solar Impulse 2 (Si2) has completed eight flights and nearly half of its journey around the world. It was during the flight from Nagoya, that the batteries overheated, causing irreversible damage that needed repair. In April the aircraft should be able to set off again form Hawaii to return to its point of departure in Abu Dhabi via the USA, the Atlantic Ocean and Southern Europe or North Africa, with the dynamic duo of Piccard and Borschberg to continue taking turns at the controls of Si2.
“The question now is not so much whether humans can go even further afield and populate other planets, but rather how to organize things so that life on Earth becomes more worthy of living.” wrote Auguste Piccard in 1931.