Is it possible to fly around the world without using a drop of fuel?
Around the world in fifty five days
"The wings quivered under the evening breeze
The engine’s song rocked the sleeping soul
The sun brushed us with its pale color.”
The goal? Demonstrate that things once thought to be impossible can now be achieved using renewable energy.
These lines were written by the young Antoine de Saint-Exupéry after his first flight at the age of 12. When you hear the story behind the Solar Impulse, you can’t help thinking about the pioneers of aviation: Clément Ader, the Wright brothers, the first Aéropostale pilot... Men for whom every flight was a feat, a dangerous challenge to go ever higher, ever further. 12 years ago, Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg took up the crazy challenge of building a solar plane that would fly around the world without using a single drop of fuel. Their goal? Demonstrate that things once thought to be impossible can now be achieved using renewable energy.
Solar Impulse has just started this extraordinary five month journey, which includes 25 days of actual flying. The plane will travel 35,000 kilometers taking in Ahmedabad in India, Nanjing in China, Hawaii and New York in the United States. It will cross oceans and continents, flying for several days and nights without fuel. In total, Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg will accumulate 500 flying hours in the tiny cockpit of the Solar Impulse.
A flying technology laboratory
“In life, there are no solutions. There are forces at work: we must create and solutions will follow.” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Night Flight
Solar Impulse represents an incredible challenge – one that is as much technological as human. Its construction, which took over 12 years, meant developing new technologies and new materials that would drastically reduce energy consumption. The result is a revolutionary single-seater carbon fiber aircraft with a larger wingspan than a Boeing 747-8 but with only 1% of the weight. In fact, Solar Impulse only weighs as much as a car! Its four electric motors are powered by more than 17,000 photovoltaic cells embedded in the aircraft's wings. By day, the solar cells recharge the lithium batteries which allow the aircraft to fly at night. "Solar Impulse is a flying technology lab, with almost perpetual autonomy.”
Renewable energy ambassadors
"Humanity faces major challenges. They will open up new horizons for science, but their objectives will be less about conquering unknown territories than protecting the Earth from current threats and improving the quality of life there.”
Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg are sending a message through their exploit: alternative energy and clean technologies can achieve the impossible. It will probably never be possible to carry 300 passengers in a solar-powered airplane, but the two men’s quest generates positive feelings about clean energy and demonstrates its potential, which is still underexploited. And that’s the 21st century adventure: find innovative solutions to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and conserve our resources.
By beating all records (Solar Impulse is the first solar aircraft able to fly at night, the first to connect two continents and the first to cross the United States without fuel), Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg are giving a "demonstration for the future". And we wish them good luck!
Main picture: Solar Impulse 2, the second single-seater solar aircraft of Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg - Copyrights: Solar Impulse