Two men, both pioneers and innovators, both pilots, are driving force behind Solar Impulse. Bertrand Piccard, psychiatrist and aeronaut, who made the first non-stop round-the-world balloon flight, is the initiator and chairman. André Borschberg, an engineer and graduate in management science, a fighter pilot and a professional airplane and helicopter pilot, is the CEO. The former’s avant-gardist vision and the latter’s entrepreneurial and managerial experience are an ideal combination.
Mechanical engineers, aeronautical engineers, physicists, specialists in structures and aerodynamics, in design and calculating tools, leading-edge specialists in composite materials, pilots with a passion for renewable energy. From the drawing board to the complicated calculations necessary. All have joined forces to finalise the solar airplane's structure and turn a dream into reality.
The electrical engineers at Solar Impulse have demonstrated their capacity to push all pre-conceived notions to the limit by defying the challenge of solving the delicate balance between maximum efficiency, lightest weight and extreme reliability of the airplane’s photovoltaic cells. To ensure that the energy created is effectively managed, transformed, stockpiled and regulated, the team developed high-performance motors and batteries, all of which are monitored by a central computer permitting energy use optimization during flights.
In this state-of-the-art project there is no room for experimenting. Each concept, each piece of the solar plane has to pass several tests before being certified as "suitable for flight". A small highly-qualified team watches over all these crucial tests. In the different workshops in Dübendorf aerodrome's hangar no. 3, specialists in composite materials and mechanical engineering are assembling the plane and fitting all its component parts.
Defining the plane's configuration, its size, the number of engines, its form – this is all the job of engineers with degrees in aeronautics and mechanical engineering, mathematicians and specialists in the algorithms used in modelling and simulation. They are all multi-disciplinary, with know-how in leading-edge construction techniques, aerodynamics, thermodynamics, project and systems management and computer simulation.
As the HB-SIA, the second plane HB-SIB is going to have to be put through a whole series of trials before setting out on its round the world tour, the project's ultimate highlight. In this test phase, pilots will be joining up with the engineers, taking charge of the ground tests and then the test flights. The engineers' knowledge of performance and flight dynamics will be paired with the talent and skills of the pilots.
The mission team brings together experts responsible for preparing the flights and missions. The flight director, air traffic controllers, mechanical engineers and IT specialists all play a crucial role in the adventure, providing the pilot with data crucial for following his flight plan. Right from the first virtual flight, they have been studying possible scenarios, gathering data and building models, in preparation for day J.
Solar Impulse unites a whole family of international partners sharing the project's pioneering spirit, underwriting its feasibility and committing themselves to promote renewable energy. The partnership team is our interface to them. The public relations team is responsible for liaising with the media all over the world to bring over to the public the challenges involved. The finance department and the secretariat are also indispensable for helping this adventure to take off.
The Ground Crew consists of a group of people passionate about the project, of all ages and horizons. They are available at all times during mission flights to carry out test flights, preparation and execution of the mission. Their role is to ensure proper functioning of the pilot’s equipment, handling of the aircraft on the ground, operational efficiency and safety during take-off and landing as well as performing safety checks after every flight.
Receive bi-monthly news from Solar Impulse: test flights and flights missions, preparation of the First #RTW Solar Flight, and join our community! › Join the community
Solar Impulse Partners have in common a pioneering spirit, a long-term vision and a desire to explore new horizons. › See the partners contributions
Swiss Pilots Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg Accomplished the Second Stop Over in China Before Embarking on the Historic Pacific Crossing
Nanjing (China), April 21, 2015 – Solar Impulse 2 (“Si2”), the world’s most advanced solar-powered airplane and the first to fly day and night without fuel, landed successfully in Nanjing, People’s Republic of China, following a 20 day stay in Chongqing. With Bertrand Piccard at ...
Nanjing (China), April 21, 2015 – Solar Impulse 2 (“Si2”), the world’s most advanced solar-powered airplane and the first to fly day and night without fuel, landed successfully in Nanjing, People’s Republic of China, following a 20 day stay in Chongqing. With Bertrand Piccard at the controls, the solar airplane concluded the sixth leg of the historic trip around the world this evening at 11:28 pm local time China (3:28 pm GMT).
“My job as a pilot was relatively easy. The preparatory measures however proved challenging for our team of weather specialists and engineers from Si’s Partner Altran at the Monaco Control Center. We simulated all possible trajectories and exhausted all different strategies to get Solar Impulse 2 in the air; from defining pit-stops at airports along the route, to different speeds, altitudes and holding patterns. Throughout the entire process, the Chinese authorities have been unfailingly helpful and open to our ideas. We are amazed by the spirit of our team and the willingness of our partners to help us achieve our goal: The first Round-The-World flight without fuel” said Bertrand Piccard, Solar Impulse Initiator and Chairman.
This journey was also essential from a technical perspective as it was used to verify and fine-tune final elements in the preparation of the Pacific Ocean crossing scheduled for early May, pending favorable weather conditions. This last leg is bringing Solar Impulse one step closer to an aviation first – the next part of the circumnavigation will require flying five consecutive days and nights in a solar-powered aircraft to cross the Pacific, a feat that has never been accomplished before.
Commenting on the arrival in Nanjing André Borschberg said:
“Nanjing represents a turning point in the entire mission; this is where everything comes together for us as pilots after initiating the project 12 years ago. This is the moment of truth where all the technical and human challenges will have to be overcome. We now have less than a month to mentally and physically prepare for what will be Solar Impulse’s longest flight to date: a five day and five night journey across the Pacific Ocean from Nanjing to Hawaii.”
Solar Impulse heads for Nanjing before crossing Pacific Ocean on its Round-The-World Flight
Chongqing (China) – April 21, 2015: Solar Impulse departed for its sixth flight from Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport at 06:06 am (10:06 pm GMT [April 20th]), heading toward Nanjing Lukou International Airport in the People's Republic of China. ...
Chongqing (China) – April 21, 2015: Solar Impulse departed for its sixth flight from Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport at 06:06 am (10:06 pm GMT [April 20th]), heading toward Nanjing Lukou International Airport in the People's Republic of China. Bertrand Piccard is flying the solar powered airplane for an expected 14 hours across the country before arriving in Nanjing. Solar Impulse 2 (Si2) has been waiting patiently in Chongqing during the past three weeks for a suitable weather window to open - cloudy weather conditions and excessive crosswinds prevented an earlier take-off.
During the previous weeks, Solar Impulse meteorologists and simulation teams have battled with unfavourable weather circumstances to find solutions allowing a departure from Chongqing sooner rather than later. Strategies explored included alternative routes, possible pit stops and flying at various altitudes. While considering several possibilities, the Civil Aviation Authority of China (CAAC) was very supportive, collaborative and flexible, for which Solar Impulse is grateful.
Si2 departed from Chongqing, heading East toward the city of Fuling, located in the province of Sichuan. Bertrand Piccard will fly over the mountainous region just outside Fuling between 12:00 pm and 1:00 pm local at a cruising altitude of 3,700 meters (12,140 feet). Piccard will continue Easterly, crossing the longest river in Asia, the Yangtze River, after which flying North Easterly toward the city of Wuhan. The solar powered aircraft will pass over Chaohu Lake, one of the largest lakes in China at roughly 8:00 am local time. Piccard is expected to arrive in Nanjing at 8:00 pm (12:00 am GMT).
Si2 will remain in Nanjing for approximately 10 days, depending on favorable weather conditions, as a thorough check of the airplane is required before departing Nanjing to Hawaii (USA) for the Pacific Crossing which will last 5 days and 5 nights.