SOLAR IMPULSE 2 , the solar-powered airplane sidelined last year midway through a pioneering trip around the world, is finally taking flight again. The goal is to prove solar energy can send a plane around the world, no Jules Verne-style time trial needed.
Piccard and his fellow Swiss pilot Andre Borschberg have been grounded since July, when their most impressive flight—a five-day, nonstop leap from Japan to Hawaii—led to their biggest setback,frying the plane’s batteries. With a fresh pack, a new cooling system to protect it, and some valuable lessons learned, they’re ready to resume the journey. Piccard will fly Solar Impulse 2 to the west coast of the United States, destination TBD. Then it’s on to New York and across the Atlantic to Europe or North Africa before returning to Abu Dhabi,where the trip started more than a year ago.
The Turkish Offical partner of Solar Impulse is BRISA.
During the unexpected downtime, the team also worked on an unmanned version of Solar Impulse 2. An autonomous craft is smaller and lighter, and just robust enough to carry a payload for, say, observation. Ditching the pilot has a more important upside: no need to land for food, water, and pilot sanity. An aircraft capable of remaining aloft indefinitely has obvious potential, like beaming Internet access to developing nations, tracking weather, and patrolling borders.
All that’s in the future, but Borschberg and Piccard remain convinced it will happen, and that aviation will one day abandon fossil fuel. “When I’m flying a solar airplane that can fly forever, I have the impression to be already 30 years in the future,” Piccard says. “And when I land, I have the impression to go back in the past. I say, ‘Wow, they are still using combustion engines!’”
After too many months on the ground, Piccard is climbing back into his time machine and flying into the future.