Solar Impulse Takes Off on Round-the-World Trip

Si2 during one of the test flights in Abu Dhabi. Solar Impulse

The second all-solar-powered version from the Swiss company Solar Impulse, Si2, took off early Monday morning from Abu Dhabi on its historic flight around the world. The team hopes that the Si2 will be able to circumnavigate the globe using nothing but solar power.

André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard, the cofounders of Solar Impulse who have done most of the flight testing of the first and second versions of the aircraft, will alternate legs on the approximate 22,000-mile-long trip.

“This is an attempt, and only time will tell if we can overcome the numerous weather, technical, human and administrative issues,” they said. The first leg, from Abu Dhabi to Muscat, Oman, was flown by Borschberg. Piccard is picking up the second leg, which is planned from Muscat over the Arabian Sea to Ahmedabad, India.

To help maximize the chances of success, Solar Impulse has set up a mission control center (MCC) in Monaco. The MCC will send and receive data to and from Si2 through satellite communication. The mission control team includes about 20 engineers and other specialists who will help analyze meteorological data, find the best route of flight, obtain the necessary international landing permissions and analyze any technological problems. Piccard has described the MCC as the “nerve center of our undertaking.”

Currently, the planned route of flight includes 12 stops and is expected to take 25 days to complete. But the team is taking its time and plans to finish the journey in about five months. Along the way, Solar Impulse and its partners will host several events to educate governments and schools about green technologies through the FutureIsClean initiative.

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Pia Bergqvist joined FLYING in December 2010. A passionate aviator, Pia started flying in 1999 and quickly obtained her single- and multi-engine commercial, instrument and instructor ratings. After a decade of working in general aviation, Pia has accumulated almost 3,000 hours of flight time in nearly 40 different types of aircraft.

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