Solar Impulse

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Solar Impulse
Flea Hop HB-SIA - Solar Impulse.jpg
Solar Impulse 1 in Dübendorf during its first "flea hop" test flight on 3 December 2009.
Role Experimental solar-powered aircraft
National origin Swiss
Manufacturer Solar Impulse
Designer Solar Impulse
First flight 3 December 2009

Solar Impulse is a Swiss long-range solar-powered aircraft project[1] led by Swiss psychiatrist and aeronaut Bertrand Piccard, who co-piloted the first balloon to circle the world non-stop,[2] and Swiss businessman André Borschberg. The project hopes to achieve the first circumnavigation of the Earth by a piloted fixed-wing aircraft using only solar power.

The first aircraft, bearing Swiss aircraft registration HB-SIA, is a single-seater monoplane, capable of taking off under its own power, and intended to remain airborne up to 36 hours.[3] This aircraft conducted its first test flight in December 2009, and first flew an entire diurnal solar cycle, including nearly nine hours of night flying, in a 26-hour flight on 7–8 July 2010.[4] Piccard and Borschberg completed successful solar-powered flights from Switzerland to Spain and Morocco in 2012,[5] and conducted a multi-stage flight across the USA in 2013.[6][7]

Building on the experience of this prototype, a slightly larger follow-on design (Solar Impulse 2) is planned to make a circumnavigation of the globe over the course of about five months.[8][9] This flight was initially planned for 2014, but following a structural failure of the aircraft's main spar during static testing in 2012, the flight was rescheduled for 2015.[10][11]

Design and development[edit]

Piccard initiated the Solar Impulse project in November 2003 after undertaking a feasibility study in partnership with the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne.[12] By 2009 he had assembled a multi-disciplinary team of 50 specialists from six countries, assisted by about 100 outside advisers.[13] The project is financed by a number of private companies and individuals. The first company to officially support the project was Semper Gestion, after co-founder Eric Freymond was convinced of the future success of the highly media-friendly Bertrand Piccard.[14] At present the main partners are Omega SA, Solvay, Schindler and ABB.[15] Other partners include Bayer MaterialScience, Altran, Swisscom and Swiss Re (Corporate Solutions). Other supporters include Clarins, Toyota, BKW and STG. The EPFL, the European Space Agency (ESA) and Dassault have provided additional technical expertise, while SunPower provided the aircraft's photovoltaic cells.[16][17] In October 2013, Solar Impulse announced that Peter Diamandis had committed to supporting the project after meeting with Solar Impulse officials during that year’s Google Zeitgeist.[18]

Timeline[edit]

  • 2003: Feasibility study at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne
  • 2004–2005: Development of the concept
  • 2006: Simulation of long-haul flights
  • 2006–09: First prototype (HB-SIA)
  • 2009: First flight of prototype
  • 2009–11: Manned test flights with prototype
  • 2011–12: Further test flights through Europe and North Africa in 7 legs
  • 2011–13: Construction of second prototype (HB-SIB)
  • 2013: Continental flight across United States (Mission Across America)[1][6][7]
  • 2014: First flight of HB-SIB (2 June)
  • 2015: Planned world tour in several stages[13]

Planned circumnavigation flight[edit]

Starting in March 2015, the flight would circle the world in the northern hemisphere, taking around 5 months. The departure and arrival point was announced as being Abu Dhabi[19] and the airplane is planned to be delivered to Masdar in Abu Dhabi for the World Future Energy Summit in January 2015.[20]

Prototype aircraft (HB-SIA)[edit]

HB-SIA showing fuselage and engines
HB-SIA showing wing

With a non-pressurized cockpit, the HB-SIA is primarily a demonstrator design. The plane has a similar wingspan to the Airbus A340 airliner. Under the wing are four nacelles, each with a set of lithium polymer batteries, a 10 hp (7.5 kW) motor and a twin-bladed propeller. To keep the wing as light as possible, a customised carbon fibre honeycomb sandwich structure is used.[21] 11,628 photovoltaic cells on the upper wing surface and the horizontal stabilizer generate electricity during the day. These both propel the plane and charge its batteries to allow flight at night, theoretically enabling the single-seat plane to stay in the air indefinitely.[22][23] The first manned flight overnight lasted about 26 hours in July 2010.

The aircraft's major design constraint is the capacity of the lithium polymer batteries. Over an optimum 24-hour cycle, the motors will deliver a combined average of about 8 hp (6 kW), roughly the power used by the Wright brothers' pioneering Flyer, the first successful powered aircraft, in 1903.[21] In addition to the charge stored in its batteries, the aircraft uses the potential energy of height gained during the day to power its night flights.[24]

HB-SIA Specifications[edit]

Data from Solar Impulse Project[21] and Diaz[25]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1
  • Length: 21.85 m (71.7 ft)
  • Wingspan: 63.4 m (208 ft)
  • Height: 6.40 m (21.0 ft)
  • Wing area: 11,628 photovoltaic cells rated at 45 kW peak: 200 m2 (2,200 sq ft)
  • Aspect ratio: 19.7
  • Loaded weight: 1,600 kg (3,500 lb)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 2,000 kg (4,400 lb)
  • Powerplant: 4 × electric motors, powered by 4 x 21 kWh lithium-ion batteries (450 kg), providing 7.5 kW (10 HP) each
  • Propeller diameter: 3.5 m at 200 to 400 rpm (11 ft)
  • Take-off speed: 35 kilometres per hour (22 mph)

Performance

Operational history[edit]

Maiden flight and other early flights[edit]

On 26 June 2009, the Solar Impulse was first presented to the public at the Dübendorf Air Base, Switzerland. Following taxi testing, a short-hop test flight was made on 3 December 2009,[26] piloted by Markus Scherdel.[27] André Borschberg, co-leader of the project team, said of the flight:

"It was an unbelievable day. The airplane flew for about 350 metres (1,150 ft) and about 1 metre (3 ft 3 in) above the ground ... The aim was not to get high but to land on the same runway at a speed to test its controllability and get a first feeling of its flying characteristics ... the craft behaved just as the engineers had hoped. It is the end of the engineering phase and the start of the flight testing phase."[27]

On 7 April 2010, the HB-SIA conducted an 87-minute test flight, piloted by Markus Scherdel. This flight reached an altitude of 1,200 m (3,937 ft).[28][29] On 28 May 2010, the aircraft made its first flight powered entirely by solar energy, charging its batteries in flight.[30]

First overnight flight[edit]

On 8 July 2010, the HB-SIA achieved the world's first manned 26-hour solar-powered flight.[31][32][33] The airplane was flown by André Borschberg, and took off at 6:51 a.m. Central European Summer Time (UTC+2) on 7 July from Payerne Air Base, Switzerland. It returned for a landing the following morning at 9:00 a.m. local time.[34] During the flight, the plane reached a maximum altitude of 8,700 m (28,500 ft).[35] At the time, the flight was the longest and highest ever flown by a manned solar-powered aircraft; these records were officially recognized by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) in October 2010.[36][37]

International and intranational flights[edit]

Belgium and France (2011)[edit]
The Solar Impulse aircraft at Brussels Airport in May 2011

On 13 May 2011 at 21:30 local time, HB-SIA landed at Brussels Airport, after completing a 13-hour flight from its home base in Switzerland. It was the first international flight by the Solar Impulse, which flew at an average altitude of 6,000 ft (1,800 m) for a distance of 630 km (391 mi), with an average speed of 50 km/h (31 mph). The aircraft's slow cruising speed required operating at a mid-altitude, allowing much faster air traffic to be routed around it.[38] The aircraft was piloted by Andre Borschberg. The project's other co-founder, Bertrand Piccard, said in an interview after the landing: "Our goal is to create a revolution in the minds of people...to promote solar energies – not necessarily a revolution in aviation."[39][40]

A second international flight to the Paris Air Show was attempted on 12 June 2011, but the plane turned back and returned to Brussels, due to adverse weather conditions.[41] In a second attempt on 14 June, André Borschberg successfully landed the aircraft at Paris' Le Bourget Airport at 9:15 pm after a 16-hour flight.[42]

First intercontinental flight (2012)[edit]

On 5 June 2012, the Solar Impulse successfully completed its first intercontinental flight, a 19-hour trip from Madrid, Spain, to Rabat, Morocco.[5] During the first leg of the flight from Payerne, Switzerland, to Madrid, the aircraft broke several further records for solar flight, including the longest solar-powered flight between pre-declared waypoints (1,099.3 km (683 mi)) and along a course (1,116 km (693 mi)).[43]

United States (2013)[edit]
The Solar Impulse aircraft on display at John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York, on 14 July 2013

On 3 May 2013, the plane began its cross-US flight with a journey from Moffett Field in Mountain View, California, to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in Arizona. Successive legs of the flight took the Solar Impulse to Dallas-Fort Worth airport, Lambert–St. Louis International Airport, an overnight stop at Cincinnati Municipal Lunken Airport, and Washington Dulles International Airport; it concluded at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport on 6 July. Each flight leg took between 19 and 25 hours, with multi-day stops in each city (except Cincinnati) between flights.[44]

After the first leg to Phoenix,[6] the aircraft completed the second leg of its trip on 23 May, landing at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. This flight, which covered 1,541 kilometres (958 mi), set several new world distance records in solar aviation.[45][46][47][48][49] On 4 June, the plane landed in St. Louis, Missouri.[50] It departed for Washington DC on 14 June, stopping overnight in Cincinnati, Ohio to change pilots and avoid strong winds.[51] On 16 June, the plane landed at Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia.[52] On 6 July 2013, following a lengthy layover in Washington, Solar Impulse completed its cross-country journey, landing at New York City's JFK International Airport at 11:09 p.m. EDT.[7][53] The landing occurred three hours earlier than originally intended, because a planned flyby of the Statue of Liberty was cancelled due to damage to the covering on the left wing.[7] The Solar Impulse was placed on public display at JFK after its landing. HB-SIA was disassembled in the USA and brought back to Dübendorf AFB (ICAO: LSMD) on the 5 August 2013 by a Cargolux B747F. Since then HB-SIA is stored at a Hangar on Dübendorf Air Base.

HB-SIB (Solar Impulse 2)[edit]

Construction history[edit]

Construction of the second Solar Impulse aircraft, carrying the Swiss registration HB-SIB, started in 2011.

Completion was initially planned for 2013, with a circumnavigation of the globe in 20–25 days in 2014. A structural failure of the main spar occurred during static tests in July 2012. The first flight occurred at Payerne aerodrome on 2 June 2014.[54] A more likely date for the circumnavigation is 2015.[10] The flight would circle the world in the northern hemisphere, near the equator. Five stops are planned to allow changes of pilots. Each leg of the flight will last three to four days, limited by the physiology of each pilot.[13]

Design[edit]

The wingspan of HB-SIB is 71.9 m (236 ft), slightly less than an Airbus A380, the world's largest passenger airliner,[25] but unlike the 500-ton A380, the carbon-fibre Solar Impulse will weigh little more than an average automobile. It will feature a larger, non-pressurized cockpit and advanced avionics including autopilot to allow for multi-day transcontinental and trans-oceanic flights.[13] Supplemental oxygen and various other environmental support systems will allow the pilot to cruise at an altitude of 12,000 metres (39,000 ft).[25]

HB-SIB Specifications[edit]

Specifications taken from Solar Impulse website:.[55]

  • Wingspan 71.9 m
  • Weight: 2300 kg
  • Speed at sea-level: 37 to 143 km/h (20 to 77 kn)
  • Speed at maximum altitude: 58.3 to 142.6 km/h (31.5 to 77 kn)
  • Motive power: 4 twin-bladed propellors (4 m diameter; 525 rev/min)
  • Maximum power: 55 kW (74 hp) (4 × 13.0 kW (17.4 hp) motors)
  • 17,248 solar cells

Operational history[edit]

HB-SIB was publicly displayed on 9 April 2014.[55]

The inaugural flight took place on 2 June 2014, piloted by Markus Scherdel.[56] The aircraft averaged 30 kt. ground speed, and reached 5,500 ft. MSL altitude.[57]

The first night flight was completed on 26 October 2014, and the aircraft reached maximum altitude during a flight on 28 October 2014.

Planned operations[edit]

See also[edit]

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Cardwell, Diane (1 May 2013). "Cross-Country Solar Plane Expedition Set for Takeoff". New York Times. Retrieved 2 May 2013. 
  2. ^ "A Speck in the Sky". New York Times. 21 March 1999. Retrieved 24 June 2013. 
  3. ^ Solar Impulse Project. "HB-SIA Mission". Retrieved 5 December 2009. 
  4. ^ "Swiss solar plane makes history with night flight". Swisster. 8 July 2010. Retrieved 13 July 2010.
  5. ^ a b "Solar plane completes maiden intercontinental trip". Reuters. 5 June 2012. Retrieved 6 June 2012. 
  6. ^ a b c "Across America". SolarImpulse.com. 2013. Retrieved 13 June 2013. 
  7. ^ a b c d "Solar Impulse ends cross-country US flight slightly early in NY due to torn left wing". Engadget. 6 July 2013. Retrieved 7 July 2013. 
  8. ^ Amos, Jonathan (26 June 2009). "Round-the-world solar plane debut". BBC. Retrieved 19 November 2009. 
  9. ^ "Plans for Solar Impulse Round-the-World Solar Flight". 
  10. ^ a b Timeline: "Without a spar, what's next?" Solar Impulse. 19 July 2012. Retrieved 28 June 2013.
  11. ^ BBC News 10 April 2014
  12. ^ "What happened between 2001 and 2003?". Solar Impulse. 31 December 2003. 
  13. ^ a b c d "Major steps". Solar Impulse. Retrieved 5 December 2009. 
  14. ^ "Semper Gestion, First partner of Solar Impulse project". Nerditorial. 2 September 2013. 
  15. ^ Piccard, Bertrand (4 April 2014). "Solar Impulse gets a lift!". Retrieved 4 April 2014. 
  16. ^ "Solar Impulse – Around the world in a solar airplane". SunPower. Retrieved 24 January 2013.
  17. ^ "Partners, Financing Structure". Solar Impulse Project. Retrieved 25 February 2010. 
  18. ^ Viktoria Dijakovic (10 October 2013). "Peter Diamandis our New Patron". Solar Impulse. 
  19. ^ http://www.livescience.com/48013-solar-impulse-abu-dhabi-host.html
  20. ^ http://www.solarimpulse.com/en/our-adventure/the-first-round-the-world-solar-flight/
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  22. ^ Engeler, Eliane (8 July 2010). "Solar plane lands after completing 24-hour flight". Associated Press. Retrieved 8 July 2010. 
  23. ^ "Plane". Solar Impulse. Retrieved 18 June 2011. 
  24. ^ "Description of HB-SIA". SolarImpulse.com. 22 June 2010. Retrieved 9 July 2010. 
  25. ^ a b c Diaz, Jesus (23 May 2007). "Solar Impulse: Around the World in a 100% Sun-powered Airplane". Gizmodo. Retrieved 25 February 2010. 
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  29. ^ Previous post Next post (7 April 2010). "Solar Airplane Completes Maiden Voyage". Wired.com. Retrieved 9 July 2010. 
  30. ^ Grady, Mary (May 2010). "Solar Impulse Flies On Pure Sunlight". Retrieved 3 June 2010. 
  31. ^ Maron, Dina Fine (6 July 2010). "Swiss Team to Launch Solar Night Flight". The New York Times. ClimateWire. Retrieved 8 July 2010. 
  32. ^ "Solar Impulse completes record-breaking flight". The Daily Telegraph (London). 8 July 2010. Retrieved 8 July 2010. 
  33. ^ Paur, Jason (7 July 2010). "Solar Airplane to Fly Through the Night (Tonight!)". Wired. Retrieved 8 July 2010. 
  34. ^ van Loon, Jeremy (8 July 2010). "Solar-Powered Plane Lands Safely After Overnight Flight". BusinessWeek. Retrieved 8 July 2010. 
  35. ^ "Solar-powered plane lands safely after 26-hour flight". BBC. 8 July 2010. Retrieved 8 July 2010. 
  36. ^ Alan Cowell (8 July 2010). "Solar-Powered Plane Flies for 26 Hours". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 July 2010. 
  37. ^ "The FAI ratifies Solar Impulse's World Records". Retrieved 22 October 2010. 
  38. ^ "Solar Impulse: Premier vol international réussi pour l’avion solaire" (in French). Planet Techno Science. 14 May 2011. Retrieved 15 June 2013. 
  39. ^ Osha Gray Davidson (13 May 2011). "Solar-Powered Airplane Makes Historic Flight". Forbes. Retrieved 13 May 2011. 
  40. ^ Niles, Russ (May 2011). "Solar Impulse Crosses Border". AvWeb. Retrieved 16 May 2011. 
  41. ^ "A setback for Solar Impulse: the solar plane favours safety and heads back to Brussels". June 2011. Retrieved 15 June 2011. 
  42. ^ Marisa, Krystian (June 2011). "Solar Impulse Plane: A Rare Treat For Crowds in Paris". Retrieved 15 June 2011. 
  43. ^ Solar Impulse’s HB-SIA obtains two new world records. SolarImpulse.com. 26 September 2012. See also: FAI Record ID #16558 and FAI Record ID #16560.
  44. ^ "Solar plane leaves Calif. on cross-country trip". Daytona Beach News Journal. Retrieved 3 May 2013. 
  45. ^ "Solar plane completes 2nd leg of trip in Texas". AP. 23 May 2013. Retrieved 10 July 2013. 
  46. ^ "Solar Plane Completes Longest Leg of Cross-Country Flight". Yahoo News. 23 May 2013. Retrieved 10 July 2013. 
  47. ^ "FAI Record ID #16815 – Straight distance, pre-declared waypoints". FAI. Retrieved 9 July 2013. 
  48. ^ "FAI Record ID #16817 – Free Distance". FAI. Retrieved 9 July 2013. 
  49. ^ "FAI Record ID #16816 – Distance along a course, pre-declared waypoints". FAI. Retrieved 9 July 2013. 
  50. ^ "Solar Impulse lands in St Louis in trans-America bid". BBC. 4 June 2013. Retrieved 13 June 2013. 
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  53. ^ "Solar Powered Plane Finishes Journey, Lands in NYC". AP. 7 July 2013. Retrieved 7 July 2013. 
  54. ^ "First Flight for Solar Impulse 2". Sport Aviation: 14. July 2014. 
  55. ^ a b [1]
  56. ^ "Solar plane makes inaugural flight". BBC News. Retrieved 2014-06-02. 
  57. ^ Aviation Week & Space Technology, Solar Impulse Flies Aircraft For Round-the-World Attempt, 9 June 2014, p. 14

External links[edit]