After the enormous success of Solar Impulse, the solar powered airplane prototype that broke numerous records, the makers, André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard, announced yesterday in Switzerland that the real deal, Solar Impulse 2, is ready to show all giants in the clean transportation industry how flight should be.
During the course of the past few years, Solar Impulse made the news quite a number of times. Back in 2009, we told you about the plans of the makers to conduct around the world trip by plane solely powered by solar. At that point not many believed that it would be possible, however the Swiss makers, continuously showed the non-believers that they mean the real deal. Their first plane named Solar Impulse, took off in Madrid and reached Morocco, and then flew across the U.S., setting a new world record for the longest distance ever flown without even a bit of back up fuel.
All that time, however, the makers were just conducting tests in order to accomplish their main goal- to fly around the world. For this purpose, they had to increase the size of the aircraft, and equip it with new technologies as well as better and lighter batteries.
The result- Solar Impulse 2, the solar powered airplane, with a wingspan of 72 meters (236 ft), fyi the Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet has a wingspan of 68.5 m (225 ft), 17,248 super thin monocrystalline silicon solar cells, high-density foam insulated lithium polymer 260 Wh/kg batteries, placed in the nacelles of the four 17.5hp engines that can move the plane with a minimum speed at sea level of 20 km/s (22 mph).
The flight will be a real challenge, there is no doubt about it. However, flying a fully equipped aircraft that complies with all safety regulations and even has a special seat that allows the pilots to perform physical exercises, would definitely make the job easier. For the keen readers, here is a link to some videos and interviews recorded during and after the official ceremony for introducing Solar Impulse 2. Today (10th of April), there will be a special guided tour of the airplane, after which the aircraft will be ready for take off.
Image (c) Solar Impulse/Jean Revillard