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.
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Solar Impulse Partners have in common a pioneering spirit, a long-term vision and a desire to explore new horizons. › See the partners contributions