Aircraft

Solar Impulse completes first ever solar-powered intercontinental journey

Solar Impulse completes first ...
Solar Impulse comes in the land in Payerne, marking the end of the first ever solar-powered intercontinental roundtrip journey (Photo: Solar Impulse - Laurent Kaeser)
Solar Impulse comes in the land in Payerne, marking the end of the first ever solar-powered intercontinental roundtrip journey (Photo: Solar Impulse - Laurent Kaeser)
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Solar Impulse comes in the land in Payerne (Photo: Solar Impulse - Laurent Kaeser)
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Solar Impulse comes in the land in Payerne (Photo: Solar Impulse - Laurent Kaeser)
Solar Impulse comes in the land in Payerne, marking the end of the first ever solar-powered intercontinental roundtrip journey (Photo: Solar Impulse - Laurent Kaeser)
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Solar Impulse comes in the land in Payerne, marking the end of the first ever solar-powered intercontinental roundtrip journey (Photo: Solar Impulse - Laurent Kaeser)
Bertrand Piccard, Mustapha Bakkoury (President of Management Board of MASEN) and André Borschberg after landing in Payerne (Photo: Solar Impulse - Laurent Kaeser)
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Bertrand Piccard, Mustapha Bakkoury (President of Management Board of MASEN) and André Borschberg after landing in Payerne (Photo: Solar Impulse - Laurent Kaeser)
Alpine horns welcoming Solar Impulse back to Switzerland (Photo: Solar Impulse - Laurent Kaeser)
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Alpine horns welcoming Solar Impulse back to Switzerland (Photo: Solar Impulse - Laurent Kaeser)
Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg after landing in Switzerland (Photo: Solar Impulse - Laurent Kaeser)
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Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg after landing in Switzerland (Photo: Solar Impulse - Laurent Kaeser)

As anticipated, the Solar Impulse HB-SIA experimental solar-powered aircraft completed the first ever solar-powered intercontinental roundtrip journey between Europe and Africa today. The roughly 6,000 km (3,728 mile) trip commenced on May 24 and consisted of a total of eight legs averaging 800 km (497 miles) before reaching its conclusion with a landing back where it all began in Payerne, Switzerland at 8:30 pm on July 24, local time.

The final leg of the journey was piloted by Bertrand Piccard, who shared duties in the single-seater cockpit with André Borschberg over the course of the journey. Originally built to prove that an aircraft powered only by the sun’s rays could be flown at night, which it proved in 2010, the HB-SIA prototype aircraft has continued to rack up a number of solar aircraft distance records.

Over the course of its latest record-breaking journey, the aircraft visited Madrid, Rabat, Ouarzazate, and Toulouse. Although its 400 kg (882 lb) of lithium batteries give it the ability to fly through the night, it often landed after midnight to avoid thermals. However, the Solar Impulse team says the aircraft was almost always brought back to the hangar with the batteries almost fully charged.

Bertrand Piccard, Mustapha Bakkoury (President of Management Board of MASEN) and André Borschberg after landing in Payerne (Photo: Solar Impulse - Laurent Kaeser)
Bertrand Piccard, Mustapha Bakkoury (President of Management Board of MASEN) and André Borschberg after landing in Payerne (Photo: Solar Impulse - Laurent Kaeser)

“It’s been an extraordinary adventure not only for what we’ve achieved with this airplane, originally only designed to demonstrate the possibility of flying day and night with a purely solar energy, but also for what has resulted in a tightly fused team, confident in the project and in their capacity to make it happen.” said André Borschberg, CEO of Solar Impulse.

On its final leg from Toulouse to Payerne, Solar Impulse traveled 615 km (382 miles) in 13 hours 29 minutes at an average speed of 63 km/h (39 mph) and at an average altitude of 3,596 meters (11,800 ft).

The next challenge for the Solar Impulse team is a round the world flight that it hopes to complete in 20 to 25 days. This flight is currently planned for 2013 or 2014.

Source: Solar Impulse

4 comments
Slowburn
While technically true intercontinental does tend to imply range in the multi-thousand kilometer range. If I fly a Piper Cub across the Strait of Gibraltar Do I really have an intercontinental airplane?
The Hoff
SB that was weak. But I guess it's hard to find a way to put down this great "green" accomplishment. 3728 miles without fuel, and you haters said it couldn't be done. The future is bright if you can take the politics out of it.
Derek Howe
meh, these kind of things don't impress me. While I think future aircraft will be electric, it remains to be seen it the batteries will be charged on the ground, or if it will have a fuel cell on board, either way it wont use any war inducing oil. That's right, I'm an anti-oil conservative republican, WE DO EXIST! lol
Markcox
Actually, Cleantech in all its glory IS a Republican thing if you can get rid of the pesky fossil fuel profiteers. This is because with a cleantech community which is properly sustainable, we save so much money not having to shell out for geopolitics, depletion, climate, pollution, health problems, subsidies and inflation that at last you can finally get a serious tax rate reduction, increase your geopolitical stability, your energy security soars, you have more healthy people working so your GDP can grow and is no longer retarded by the inflationary impact of higher oil prices etc etc. The benefits go on and on but all we hear is "Drill baby drill" The only time this is OK is for geothermal.