Dr. Bertrand Piccard Outlines Solar Impulse Progress
A high-flying plan to make an
unprecedented round-the-world flight, powered only by solar energy,
was outlined Monday at the 2008 Singapore Air Show.
Swiss balloon pioneer Dr. Bertrand Piccard updated show
attendees on the progress of his Solar Impulse project, intended to
produce a lightweight aircraft capable of staying aloft day and
night, powered only by solar-generated electrical energy.
"On solar energy you have to capture the energy with solar cells
on the wings, store this energy in the batteries and at the same
time, run the engine during the day," Piccard said. "So when you
get the dark, you can use the energy from the batteries until the
next sunrise and continue the next day and next night and next day
Piccard expects the batteries to be able to power the aircraft
for at least 16 hours after dark, reports ChannelNews Asia. That
should give the aircraft plenty of time after sunset, as well as
some margin of safety in low-light conditions.
ANN has reported on the Solar Impulse
project before. In 2007, the team conducted a series
of real-time computer simulations of a global circumnavigation,
including replications of several historic flights -- Charles
Lindbergh's 1927 Atlantic crossing among them.
Though it exists only in prototype form at this time, Piccard
expects the first carbon-fiber Solar Impulse to have its maiden
flight in 2009. The aircraft will have a wingspan of about 262 feet
-- roughly equivalent to that of an Airbus A380. The aircraft
boasts 690 square feet of solar panels, but will weigh just a
little more than two tons and will barely accommodate the lone
pilot -- Piccard -- in its narrow, highly-computerized cockpit.
The aircraft's solar panels charge ultralight lithium batteries,
which in turn power four electric propeller engines along the
The team has raised about 65 percent of the expected $70 million
US cost of the project, Piccard notes.