In News: Solar Impulse

Screenshot_1Solar Impulse has been in news recently for completing a transcontinental trip across the US, despite a rip in the fabric of one wing.

Solar Impulse is a Swiss long-range solar powered aircraft project developed at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. The aircraft took off from Mountain View, California on May 3, 2013 and took a coast-to-coast journey across the domestic United States before touching down at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on July 6, 2013.

Who were the pilots for Solar Impulse?

Swiss pilot Andre Borschberg and fellow pilot Bertrand Piccard piloted the aircraft. The men had taken turns flying the spindly, long-winged plane across the country.

Features of Solar Impulse:
  • Powered by 12,000 solar cells
  • Flies in the dark by reaching high altitudes during the day and gliding downward over long distances by night
  • Uses no fossil fuels
  • Flying speed of around 70 kilometers per hour
  • Runs on 4 electric propellers powered by solar cells mounted on the plane’s 63-meter wingspan
Drawbacks of Solar Impulse:
  • Tiny cockpit
  • Vulnerability to turbulence
  • Lack of a toilet
Future Plans for Solar Impulse:

The current aircraft model, the HB-SIA, is soon to be phased out as the Swiss team prepares test flights in 2014 of the second-generation aircraft, the HB-SIB. The next plane is expected to be 10% larger, with more power, reliability, an auto-pilot function and a toilet so that pilots can make the four to six-day long trips that will be part of its journey across the world in 2015.