People, Travel

Solar Impulse 2

Solar Impulse 2Solar Impulse 2

The Solar Impulse 2 Sun-powered plane left Switzerland for Abu Dhabi on a cargo flight to commence its attempted flight around the world, NTD TV reported.

Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg, co-founders of the Solar Impulse project, watched their airplane get loaded onto a Boeing 747 at Payern airdrome in Switzerland.

The trip around the world is scheduled to take place sometime between the end of February and the beginning of March.

“We will start from Abu Dhabi and head east across India and China (a 24 hours stretch each) then, the big jump to Hawaii and across the United States; over the Atlantic to Southern Europe and Northern Africa, followed by a very long journey back to Abu Dhabi, to finish the complete circle,” Piccard said.

Piccard said the trip, the product of 12 years of hard work by his team, will take 25 days over a five months period to complete.

“You work for 12 years, and the trip is always in the future. And here we are – the flight leaves tomorrow morning... in no time now! It’s very exciting for everybody. The pilot and the team are being psychologically prepared because the technology is ok, but they will need to cope with very long flights with a single pilot on board for five days and five nights, it’s a lot of stress for everybody,” Piccard said.

During the flight, Piccard and Borschberg, the plane’s pilots, will face extreme temperatures (up to minus 20 degrees Celsius during the nights and plus 30 or more degrees Celsius during the day), and their movements will be restricted in the cockpit.

Borschberg demonstrated yoga positions and breathing exercises he will use during the flight. His luggage is already packed with items including a yoga mat, a specially-engineered cream and books.

The two pilots have further prepared for the flight with an intense three-day and three-night training session in a flight simulator to test their endurance and determine the best flying conditions.

“We plan to rest, or to sleep, for a maximum of 20 minutes at a time, and then we have to re-establish contact with the control center, check what the plane is doing and that everything is working properly, and then maybe have a second break. How many of these breaks we will be able to take per night is difficult to say. We’ve trained in a simulator to have six to eight of them every 24 hours, which means about two hours of sleep every 24 hours, which is not much”, Borschberg explained.

With a 72-meter wingspan, and weighing 2.3 tons, Solar Impulse 2 has more than 17,200 solar cells which reload 633 kilos of lithium batteries. These powerful batteries should keep the plane in flight for five days and nights, the longest legs of the trip when the plane must cross the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.

Piccard hopes the success of this flight will open doors for the future of the aeronautic industry.

“We would like to demonstrate, with Solar Impulse, that we can today achieve incredible things with renewable energies and clean technologies. If an airplane can fly with no fuel around the world, can you imagine how this technology could be used everywhere?” Piccard said.

Piccard and Borschberg founded Solar Impulse in 2003. After a first attempt to make a round-the-world journey, and the crash of the first Solar Impulse plane, a second aircraft was built longer than its predecessor. The Solar Impulse project has cost upwards of $150 million.

The plane is expected to complete its global circumnavigation in July.