In what promises to be a true inspiration for people everywhere, especially environmentalists and flight aficionados, a Swiss solar aeronautical team plans to fly its solar-powered plane around the globe in 2015.
Solar Impulse 2 will make the pioneering trip over three months, stopping for breaks at several points so the two pilots can change off. Bertrand Piccard, known for making the first around-the-world balloon flight, and André Borschberg, the fighter pilot and MIT-educated engineer who helped develop the plane, will be flying tag-team because the plane, affixed with 72,000 solar cells along its entire 72-meter wingspan, can only carry a single-occupant.
Despite that constraint, the founding pilot/inventors of the Solar Impulse project, want to show the world that a global solar trip is possible.
The airplane is an improved version of Solar Impulse, the first solar plane able to fly long distances both at night and during the day. Technically, Solar Impulse 2 could fly for a month, soaring higher during the day and cruising at lower altitudes at night before being lifted by the sun’s power the next day, Borschberg told the Associated Press.
“So we have a sustainable airplane in terms of energy; we need to develop a sustainable pilot now,” he said. Provisions have been made to accommodate the pilots with a restroom and space to recline and exercise within the relatively tiny cockpit.
Circling earth without using a “drop of fuel” or producing any polluting emissions has always been the goal of the project, more than a decade in the making. The timing for the flight was just announced this week.
Solar Impulse wants to show that solar power, paired with other new technologies, can “achieve what some consider impossible” and in doing so, mobilize public support for greener air travel.
In 2013, the Solar Impulse team, which is backed by several corporations, is run by a team of about 90 engineers, technicians and controllers, completed a relay-flight across the U.S.