Wed, Jul 01, 2009
Designed To Fly Around The World On Solar Power Alone
Late last week, Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg
unveiled the Solar Impulse HB-SIA at Dübendorf airfield close
to Zurich. It is the first aircraft designed to fly both day
and night without fossil fuel or emissions.
Photo Courtesy Solar Impulse
The presentation of the prototype took place in front of more
than 800 people, including 200 representatives of the international
media, and many high-ranking guests among them H.S.H. Albert II of
Monaco, the Swiss Minister of Energy and Environment, the CEOs of
Solvay, Omega and Deutsche Bank and the CEO of the International
Air Transport Association (IATA).
Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg first retraced the
history of the project since it was launched in 2003. 6 years of
intense work, calculations, simulations and tests were needed by
the 70-person team to complete this totally unprecedented aircraft.
With the wingspan of a Boeing 747-400 it weighs only about 3,500
pounds, or about the weight of a family car. Over 12,000 solar
cells mounted onto the wing will supply renewable energy to the
four electric motors with a maximum power of 10 HP each. During the
day they will also charge the lithium-polymer batteries, which
account for about 880 pounds, which will permit the HB-SIA to fly
through the night. Piccard is no stranger to extreme flying. He
made the first round-the-world balloon trip in 1999.
The HB-SIA is the first prototype of the Solar Impulse project.
Its mission is to demonstrate the feasibility of a complete
day-night-day cycle propelled solely by solar energy. After
fine-tuning on the ground, the aircraft should make its first test
flights between now and the end of 2009, first of all at
Dübendorf airport (canton of Zurich) and then from Payerne air
base (canton of Vaud). A first complete night flight is programmed
for 2010 and will take place over Switzerland.
Photo Courtesy Solar Impulse
The results from the HB-SIA and their analysis will serve to
develop and build a second aircraft, the HB-SIB for
circumnavigating the word in five stages, each lasting several
days, in 2012.
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