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André Borschberg & Bertrand Piccard of Solar Impulse

André Borschberg & Bertrand Piccard of Solar Impulse

Eco-Heroes-Solar-Impulse02We speak to the two pioneers, pilots and innovators of this incredible journey by solar powered airplane – André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard.

Solar Impulse is a revolutionary new airplane that is totally powered by the sun and solar energy. It is currently circumventing the world with André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard at the helm. This momentous journey is designed to inspire future generations for a sustainable future (www.FutureIsClean.org) and to attempt the first five day non stop solar flight across the Pacific Ocean using only solar power.

Bertrand Piccard was into a dynasty of explorers and scientists who have conquered the heights and depths of our planet, Bertrand Piccard made the first ever non-stop round-the-world balloon flight. As a psychiatrist, aeronaut and lecturer, chairman of the Winds of Hope charitable foundation, and a United Nations goodwill ambassador, he combines science and adventure in order to tackle some of the great challenges of our times.

André Borschberg is an engineer by education and a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in management science, He has solid experience in creating and managing companies, as well as in flying. His passion for aviation and his interest in innovative solutions led him to team up with Bertrand Piccard to direct Solar Impulse and be one of the pilots who will fly around the world in a solar aircraft.

 

What inspired you to undertake building and flying the first round the world solar flight?

Bertrand Piccard ‘I was inspired following the success of the first ever round-the-world balloon flight that I accomplished in 1999 with Brian Jones.’

They left with 3.7 tonnes / ~8.200 lbs. of propane. Upon arrival, they had just 40 kg / ~88 lbs. left. When he realised that their attempt could have failed for lack of fuel, he promised himself to fly around the world again, but next time without using any fossil fuels.

The project was officially launched in 2003 following a feasibility study carried out by the EPFL, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne and was led by André Borschberg.

 

How many prototypes did it take before the Solar Impulse round the world attempt?

Before Solar Impulse 2 embarked on its adventure around the world we built one prototype: Solar Impulse 1 (HB-SIA).It had the wingspan of an Airbus 340 and a cockpit the size of a car, it had physical and aerodynamic features never seen before in aviation.

It broke several world records and was the predecessor of the Solar Impulse 2 of today. You can read about the plane and our adventures of the first plane http://info.solarimpulse.com/en/our-adventure/hb-sia/

 

Eco-Heroes-Solar-Impulse03What were the biggest design challenges?

Solar Impulse 2 (Si2) was built to achieve the First Round-The-World Solar Flight. This revolutionary single seater airplane powered by the sun will attempt a challenge that has never been done before: fly five consecutive days and nights crossing the Pacific Ocean without using any fuel.

This requires the optimization of new technologies and a drastic reduction in energy consumption, and Solar Impulse’s team of 80 engineers and technicians, have had to apply highly innovative solutions to make this happen.

As a result, the Si2 is a real airborne technology lab with virtually endless endurance – a feat that has been perceived as impossible by industry experts. More information in the attached document.

 

Why flying and not another type of transport that may be a little less risky?

André Borschberg: “Airplanes make people dream. Airplanes have been an inspiration for a lot of people over the last centuries and in an airplane you can’t cheat. If you’re slightly too heavy, you won’t be able to fly through the night. If your plane is too heavy, you won’t fly at all. We believe if we can do this with an airplane we can certainly demonstrate and implement all this technologies and applications on the ground.”

 

What are the biggest challenges on this flight?

Bertrand Piccard: “Everything is going to be difficult as it is a historic first. We have no bench mark and nobody to copy and this is why this is going to be a lot of suspense worldwide.”

One of the biggest challenges is of human endurance of being in a confined space and staying alert to fly for five days in a small cockpit and be able to communicate, be nourished and remain alert.

André Borschberg: ‘I have practiced yoga for many years and come up with some poses and a routine to combat deep vein thrombosis. Sleep is 20 minute naps, 10-12 times a day. Bertrand Piccard trained himself to sleep for only short periods through self-hypnosis, a technique that disassociates the head from the body. He introduced this technique to me that allows the body to go into a very deep relaxation but be alert enough to check the instruments throughout the flight’.

There are also the technical challenges of keeping the flights energy source going. Si2 will collect energy from the sun during the day and climb to 28,000 feet, when the sun sets it will start to descend with full batteries and fly at a lower altitude. The latest sustainable technologies have been implemented to make sure the aircraft stays airborne (see below).

Wind and weather are also a challenge as are the ground communications and keeping in touch with mission control. The plane also requires appropriate protection against external factors so the inflatable hangar comes with us to allow us to rapidly assemble it, as was the case in Mandalay, Myanmar. It is transported in a cargo plane so there are various logistical challenges that accompany the flight with the team and equipment.

 

How long can you be airborne with the Solar Impulse?

Theoretically, Solar Impulse could fly forever but because it’s a single seater we have to land in order to change pilot.

The airplane captures all the energy it needs from 17,248 cells located on the aircraft’s wing (72 m), fuselage and the horizontal stabilizer. These cells with an efficiency of 22.7 %, convert the sun’s rays into electricity to be able to simultaneously power the engines and recharge the batteries.

Indeed one of the main challenges is the pilot’s sustainability and the human challenges that impede flying an aircraft continuously. The single-seater aircraft will be flown for 5 days and 5 nights maximum by the pilot.

 

Eco-Heroes-Solar-Impulse04

You have been compared to the Wright Brothers and other great aviators before you – do you feel you are making history and changing the future of air travel?

Our primary purpose is not to revolutionize aviation, but the way in which people think about energy and clean technologies. If Solar Impulse technologies were used on a massive scale, the world would be able to save up to 50% of the current consumption of fossil energy and produce half of the rest with renewable energies.

As for the aviation industry, it is well aware of its need to change. However, this cannot be done quite as drastically as with Solar Impulse. Our project involves zero fuel. Conventional aviation cannot switch straight to zero fuel. Intermediate steps are needed, such as using lighter materials, more direct routes or approaching airports through constant descent rather than performing level landings. Aviation will be the final area of transport able to stop using fuel.

The Wright Brothers began with a humble plane that many doubted would have any lasting significance. No one can predict the future of aviation with any certainty, but we are proud to be part of its evolution in whatever form it takes.

 

Why is alternative energy in aviation so important for the future?

Alternative energy is important in everywhere.Wewant to use the Solar Impulse’s world-wide visibility in order to champion the messages we have been communicating since 2003: clean technologies for job creation and sustainable growth, just as much as protecting the environment.

That’s why we launched the ‘Future Is Clean’ Movement (www.FutureIsClean.org) when starting the Round-The-World Solar Flight in Abu Dhabi.

Next December, global governmental decision makers will meet in Paris for the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21), and will decide upon a new climate agreement. The “Future is Clean” Movement aims at bringing millions of voices to this conference in order to show world leaders how many people are concerned and affected by these issues.

 

Eco-Heroes-Solar-Impulse05

Do you feel this is the future of air travel?

Again, our primary purpose is not to revolutionize aviation, but the way in which people think about energy and clean technologies. It is all about changing perceptions and inspiring future generations.

 

For more Information & To Follow the Journey – www.solarimpulse.com

 
 
© 2014 The Eco Gypsy - Ethical Exploration.
   


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