Bertrand Piccard set to complete Solar Impulse’s around-the-world solar powered airplane flight

History is being made this weekend as Bertrand Piccard is piloting the Solar Impulse solar-powered airplane from Cairo to Abu Dhabi.  In March 2015 the Solar Impulse set out from Abu Dhabi, and the team has been flying the airplane (in legs) around the world since.  It was to have finished the journey last fall but a snafu caused a delay until this year.  At about 2AM Cairo time on July 23, Bertrand Piccard took off from Cairo (as shown above) on a journey intended to last slightly over 2 days (about 50 hours).

The Solar Impulse is not the first electric airplane, nor the first solar powered electric airplane.  It is the first solar powered electric airplane to make long distance flights including crossing the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.  The latter feat is a ground-breaking task equivalent to Lindbergh’s flight across the Atlantic Ocean decades ago.

That is, we expect electric airplanes to only work for short flights lasting an hour or so.  The currently available electric airplanes are meant for training schools, and pay for themselves in fuel cost savings.  By contrast the Solar Impulse can fly for several days at a time, a feat that’s completely unheard-of for fossil fuel powered airplanes.

The trick is to not rely on fuel, but to rely on sunlight.  The Solar Impulse is covered with solar panels and can capture enough energy to enable flight all night long, after flying all day long.  In theory the Solar Impulse could fly indefinitely, but for the endurance of the human pilot.  The Pacific crossing took two legs, the first lasting five days with a stopover in Hawaii, and the second leg taking 3 days.  The Atlantic crossing took slightly over 3 days.

That’s not a typo – 3 to 5 days of constant flight, refueled solely by sunlight.

As this is written, Piccard just finished the first day of the flight from Cairo to Abu Dhabi.  It is sunrise over the Arabian Peninsula, and he is catching some rest before a full day of flying.  If his day goes like yesterday, he’ll be giving interviews all day long from the cockpit.

Cairo, Egypt, July 24 2016: Solar Impulse successfully took-off from Cairo with Bertrand Piccard at the controls. Departed from Abu Dhabi on march 9th 2015, the Round-the-World Solar Flight will take 500 flight hours and cover 35’000 km. Swiss founders and pilots, Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg hope to demonstrate how pioneering spirit, innovation and clean technologies can change the world. The duo will take turns flying Solar Impulse 2, changing at each stop and will fly over the Arabian Sea, to India, to Myanmar, to China, across the Pacific Ocean, to the United States, over the Atlantic Ocean to Southern Europe or Northern Africa before finishing the journey by returning to the initial departure point. Landings will be made every few days to switch pilots and organize public events for governments, schools and universities.

Cairo, Egypt, July 24 2016: Solar Impulse successfully took-off from Cairo with Bertrand Piccard at the controls. Departed from Abu Dhabi on march 9th 2015, the Round-the-World Solar Flight will take 500 flight hours and cover 35’000 km. Swiss founders and pilots, Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg hope to demonstrate how pioneering spirit, innovation and clean technologies can change the world. The duo will take turns flying Solar Impulse 2, changing at each stop and will fly over the Arabian Sea, to India, to Myanmar, to China, across the Pacific Ocean, to the United States, over the Atlantic Ocean to Southern Europe or Northern Africa before finishing the journey by returning to the initial departure point. Landings will be made every few days to switch pilots and organize public events for governments, schools and universities.

Cairo, Egypt, July 24 2016: Solar Impulse successfully took-off from Cairo with Bertrand Piccard at the controls. Departed from Abu Dhabi on march 9th 2015, the Round-the-World Solar Flight will take 500 flight hours and cover 35’000 km. Swiss founders and pilots, Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg hope to demonstrate how pioneering spirit, innovation and clean technologies can change the world. The duo will take turns flying Solar Impulse 2, changing at each stop and will fly over the Arabian Sea, to India, to Myanmar, to China, across the Pacific Ocean, to the United States, over the Atlantic Ocean to Southern Europe or Northern Africa before finishing the journey by returning to the initial departure point. Landings will be made every few days to switch pilots and organize public events for governments, schools and universities.

Cairo, Egypt, July 24 2016: Solar Impulse successfully took-off from Cairo with Bertrand Piccard at the controls. Departed from Abu Dhabi on march 9th 2015, the Round-the-World Solar Flight will take 500 flight hours and cover 35’000 km. Swiss founders and pilots, Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg hope to demonstrate how pioneering spirit, innovation and clean technologies can change the world. The duo will take turns flying Solar Impulse 2, changing at each stop and will fly over the Arabian Sea, to India, to Myanmar, to China, across the Pacific Ocean, to the United States, over the Atlantic Ocean to Southern Europe or Northern Africa before finishing the journey by returning to the initial departure point. Landings will be made every few days to switch pilots and organize public events for governments, schools and universities.

Cairo, Egypt, July 24th 2016: Solar Impulse took off from Cairo, and is headed toward Abu Dhabi for its final leg on the Round The Round Journey. Departed from Abu Dhabi on march 9th 2015, the Round-the-World Solar Flight will take 500 flight hours and cover 35’000 km. Swiss founders and pilots, Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg hope to demonstrate how pioneering spirit, innovation and clean technologies can change the world. The duo will take turns flying Solar Impulse 2, changing at each stop and will fly over the Arabian Sea, to India, to Myanmar, to China, across the Pacific Ocean, to the United States, over the Atlantic Ocean to Southern Europe or Northern Africa before finishing the journey by returning to the initial departure point. Landings will be made every few days to switch pilots and organize public events for governments, schools and universities.

Cairo, Egypt, July 24th 2016: Solar Impulse took off from Cairo, and is headed toward Abu Dhabi for its final leg on the Round The Round Journey. Departed from Abu Dhabi on march 9th 2015, the Round-the-World Solar Flight will take 500 flight hours and cover 35’000 km. Swiss founders and pilots, Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg hope to demonstrate how pioneering spirit, innovation and clean technologies can change the world. The duo will take turns flying Solar Impulse 2, changing at each stop and will fly over the Arabian Sea, to India, to Myanmar, to China, across the Pacific Ocean, to the United States, over the Atlantic Ocean to Southern Europe or Northern Africa before finishing the journey by returning to the initial departure point. Landings will be made every few days to switch pilots and organize public events for governments, schools and universities.

Cairo, Egypt, July 24 2016: Solar Impulse successfully took-off from Cairo with Bertrand Piccard at the controls. Departed from Abu Dhabi on march 9th 2015, the Round-the-World Solar Flight will take 500 flight hours and cover 35’000 km. Swiss founders and pilots, Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg hope to demonstrate how pioneering spirit, innovation and clean technologies can change the world. The duo will take turns flying Solar Impulse 2, changing at each stop and will fly over the Arabian Sea, to India, to Myanmar, to China, across the Pacific Ocean, to the United States, over the Atlantic Ocean to Southern Europe or Northern Africa before finishing the journey by returning to the initial departure point. Landings will be made every few days to switch pilots and organize public events for governments, schools and universities.

Cairo, Egypt, July 24 2016: Solar Impulse successfully took-off from Cairo with Bertrand Piccard at the controls. Departed from Abu Dhabi on march 9th 2015, the Round-the-World Solar Flight will take 500 flight hours and cover 35’000 km. Swiss founders and pilots, Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg hope to demonstrate how pioneering spirit, innovation and clean technologies can change the world. The duo will take turns flying Solar Impulse 2, changing at each stop and will fly over the Arabian Sea, to India, to Myanmar, to China, across the Pacific Ocean, to the United States, over the Atlantic Ocean to Southern Europe or Northern Africa before finishing the journey by returning to the initial departure point. Landings will be made every few days to switch pilots and organize public events for governments, schools and universities.

 

 

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.
Bookmark and Share
  EV Airplanes, Solar Impulse, Solar Power. Bookmark.

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

Leave a Reply