The newest and largest version of solar plane Solar Impulse has been unveiled ahead of the planned first around-the-world flight in a solar powered airplane in 2015.
Solar Impulse, and its creators Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, will attempt to fly around the world in their solar powered aircraft by the end of next year. If successful, it will be the first airplane that can fly day and night without fuel or polluting emissions.
The aircraft team unveiled their new aircraft on April 9th. Previous prototypes have included 880 solar panels on the horizontal stabiliser and 10,748 panels on the wing – all transferred into four, ten horsepower electric engines.
The carbon fibre plane has the wingspan of a Boeing 747 (63.4m) and the weight of a small car (1,600kg).
The plane is a result of seven years of work, calculations, simulations and tests by a team of about 80 people and 100 partners and advisors.
Previously the plane has completed record-breaking missions across Europe, the Mediterranean Sea and the United States as well as being the first ever fight through the night powered by solar.
Originally, the round the world flight was planned for 2014 but due to a structural failure of the aircraft’s main spar during static testing in 2012, the flight is now planned for 2015.
A plane so big and light has never been built before. The now 12,000 solar cells built into the wing provide the electric motors with renewable energy. By day the solar cells recharge the 400kg lithium batteries, which allow the plane to fly at night.
ABB, based in Switzerland, is the world’s second-largest supplier of solar inverters and one of the largest suppliers to the wind-power industry, is a major supporter of the project.
“This partnership brings together two Swiss-based global leaders that are passionate about pushing the boundaries of technology and innovation to achieve a better world,” said ABB CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer.
“We believe in Bertrand’s vision, and we are convinced that by pioneering innovative technologies we will be able to decouple economic growth from energy consumption and environmental impact … we are always challenging the boundaries of what is technologically possible.”