The solar powered plane set to fly around the world with no fuel – and it is so efficient it could remain in the air indefinitely
The solar powered plane that is set to try and fly around the world without using fuel next year has been unveiled.
Pilots Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg said the Solar Impulse 2 improves dramatically upon the single-seater prototype that first took flight five years ago.
They say the technology has advanced so much the new design could remain in the air indefinitely.
The updated plane presented to the world at the Payerne Air Force Base in Switzerland has better batteries for storing energy soaked up from the sun by the 7,200 solar cells that cover its massive wings.
The Swiss team planning to complete the first round-the-world solar flight next year have already demonstrated that a solar-powered plane can fly through the night, between two continents and across the United States.
At 72 meters (236 feets) its wingspan is eight meters longer than the first prototype – longer even than the wings of a Boeing 747 jumbo jet – but still only weights 2.3 metric tons (2.54 tons), about as much as a large car.
The materials in the updated plane are also lighter than before, it has more efficient electric motors, and a ‘good business class seat,’ Borschberg said. Because while the journey will be broken up into several stages, the aircraft’s slow speed means it will have to stay in the air for several days in a row during the long transoceanic legs.
80 companies contributed cutting-edge technologies to the plane, which is meant to showcase the possibility of using cleaner energy sources.
Borschberg said the trip next year would take about 20 flying days, spread over several months.
Solar Impulse is the product of an alliance between two men to fulfill a project deemed impossible by industry experts.
While Bertrand Piccard, a psychiatrist and explorer, sourced partners to finance the project and promoted the cause for clean technologies (subsequently endorsed by many political authorities), engineer and entrepreneur André Borschberg brought together and led a technical team of 80.
It has taken 12 years of calculations, simulations, construction and testing to arrive at today’s launch of Solar Impulse 2 – the most revolutionary aircraft of out of time, set to fly around the world.
‘A vision counts for nothing unless it is backed up by action,’ said Bertrand Piccard, founder and Chairman of Solar Impulse.
‘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,’
‘Now we need to go even further,’ added André 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 the round-the-world flight, Solar Impulse 2 will have to accomplish what no other aircraft has achieved before: flying without fuel with only one pilot for 5 consecutive days and nights over oceans from one continent to another.
This is the challenge for which the aircraft has been built.
There is a 3.8 m3 cockpit, every detail of which has been designed for a pilot to live there for a week.
However, for the sake of maximum energy efficiency, the cabin is not pressurized or heated – a further endurance challenge for the pilot.
Test flights are due to take place in May, followed by training flights over Switzerland.
WHERE IT WILL FLY
The attempt to make the first round-the-world solar-powered flight is scheduled to start in March 2015 from Gulf area.
Solar Impulse will fly, in order, over the Arabian Sea, India, Burma, China, the Pacific Ocean, the United States, the Atlantic Ocean and Southern Europe or North Africa before closing the loop by returning to the departure point.
Landings will be made every few days to change pilots and organize public events for governments, schools and universities.
Source | DailyMail