Technology

The Solar Plane That Will Circle the Globe

Solar Impulse 2 will take to the skies in 2015 for a journey unlike any ever attempted.

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news
 
Photo Credits: AFP Photo/Fabrice Coffrini/Pool/Solar Impulse

Prototype plane Solar Impulse, with pilot André Borschberg onboard, flies at sunrise above Payerne's Swiss airbase on July 8, 2010.

For the prototype's grand finale, Borschberg and project partner Bertrand Piccard traded off legs on a five-part journey across the U.S. starting in May 2013.

Since then the team has focused on building the plane's successor, Solar Impulse 2, which has been 10 years and about $150 million in the making.

Photo Credits: Solar Impulse / Revillard / Rezo.ch

Solar Impulse 2 is finally unveiled on April 9, 2014, in Payerne, Switzerland. The team rolled the aircraft out for some outdoor solar generator tests before the first flight.

Photo Credits: Solar Impulse / Revillard / Rezo.ch

Solar Impulse 2 test flights are due to take place in May 2014, followed by training flights over Switzerland.

The attempt to make the first round-the-world solar-powered flight is scheduled to start in March 2015 from the Gulf area.

Photo Credits: Solar Impulse / Revillard / Rezo.ch

Solar Impulse 2 will fly, in order, over the Arabian Sea, India, Burma, China, the Pacific Ocean, the United States, the Atlantic Ocean and Southern Europe or North Africa, before closing the loop by returning to the departure point.

Landings will be made every few days to change pilots and organize public events for governments, schools and universities.

Photo Credits: Solar Impluse and Jean Revillard/Rezo; Anna Pizzolante/Rezo; Piccard family

In December 2013, Piccard spent 72 hours in a specially designed flight simulator. He wore electrodes that monitored his physical well-being throughout.

Photo Credits: Solar Impluse and Jean Revillard/Rezo; Anna Pizzolante/Rezo; Piccard family

Even an eight-hour flight can cause blood clots; five days of sitting motionless could be a killer. Here, Piccard practices modified yoga and pilates exercises during his three-day simulator flight.

Photo Credits: Solar Impluse and Jean Revillard/Rezo; Anna Pizzolante/Rezo; Piccard family

After three days in the simulator, Piccard emerges with a grin — ready to do it all for real in 2015.

Photo Credits: Solar Impulse / Revillard / Rezo.ch

The Solar Impulse fuselage, shown here, is made of carbon composite tubes.

Photo Credits: Solar Impulse / Merz / Rezo.ch

Engineers test the cockpit design in a wind tunnel in 2013.

Photo Credits: Solar Impulse / Revillard / Rezo.ch

Lightweight carbon fiber ribs form the wing.

Photo Credits: Solar Impluse and Jean Revillard/Rezo; Anna Pizzolante/Rezo; Piccard family

Engineers load test the Solar Impulse 2 wing spar.

Photo Credits: Solar Impulse

Engineers mount solar panels on the wing of Solar Impulse 2 in December 2013.

Photo Credits: Solar Impluse and Jean Revillard/Rezo; Anna Pizzolante/Rezo; Piccard family

Everything is close at hand in the tiny cockpit of Solar Impulse 2, under assembly in Switzerland.

Photo Credits: Solar Impulse / Revillard / Rezo.ch

The cockpit control panel of Solar Impulse 2.

Photo Credits: Solar Impluse and Jean Revillard/Rezo; Anna Pizzolante/Rezo; Piccard family

To save weight, Piccard and Borschberg will eat calorie-dense dehydrated and vacuum-packaged meals.

Photo Credits: AFP Photo/Fabrice Coffrini/Pool/Solar Impulse

André Borschberg, left, and Bertrand Piccard are the intrepid pilots behind the Solar Impulse project.

Building on their history-making 2010 flight, they next plan to take an updated version of the plane, shown here, on the first round-the-world solar flight.

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Magazine Examples
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!

Subscribe

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Join
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

 
Subscribe
To The Magazine

Save up to 70% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2021 Kalmbach Media Co.