• Switzerland's news in English

Solar Impulse team show off new fuel-free plane

Agnes Pedrero/AFP · 9 Apr 2014, 20:28

Published: 09 Apr 2014 20:28 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Solar Impulse 2 is the successor of the original plane of the same name, which last year completed a trip across the United States without using a drop of fuel.
"These two airplanes are the most energy efficient airplanes ever designed," pilot André Borschberg told a 500-strong audience of officials, sponsors and diplomats at the Payerne airbase in the canton of Vaud.
"The first plane was a prototype, a flying laboratory," said the former Swiss Air Force jet pilot.
Solar Impulse 2 is a bigger, better version of its predecessor, he said, reeling off the new aircraft's statistics.
The new plane has a wingspan of 72 metres.
While that is the same as an Airbus A380, at just 2,300 kilos, Solar Impulse 2 is less than one percent the weight of the super jumbo jet.
That is thanks to the fact that the plane is built from carbon layers that weigh less than 25 gramme per square metre — one third of the weight of a sheet of paper, Borschberg said.
It will be powered by a massive 17,248 solar cells spread across its wings and fuselage.
The goal, Borschberg said, is to be able to fly for at least 120 hours non-stop around the globe.
After test flights in Switzerland starting from next month, the plan is to take off sometime after March 1st 2015 from a location in the Gulf, ideal for its weather conditions, and head eastwards.
"We will need at least five days and five nights to fly from China to the US and from the US back to Europe," said Borschberg.
While that cannot compete with traditional air travel, the point of the project is to push the boundaries of green-flavoured research, said fellow pilot Bertrand Piccard, the latest member of a dynasty of Swiss scientists-cum-adventurers.


"If you say you want to fly around the world in a solar airplane, everyone thinks you're crazy," said Piccard, who in 1999 was the first person along with Briton Brian Jones to fly around the world non-stop in a hot-air balloon.
"But technology doesn't come out of the blue," he added, noting that spin-offs from such projects are crucial for sectors from energy to auto manufacturing, and bio-science to chemicals.
Borschberg said that the plane's designers had wrestled with issues such as the fact that more reliable technology tends to be heavier, but that weight means less performance.
Other issues to resolve have been how to ensure pilot safety at an altitude of 8,000 metres on a flight that will cross oceans.
"We didn't want to spend time taking swimming lessons, so we really want to make sure we have no trouble in the air," Borschberg said, laughing.
Borschberg and Piccard founded the Solar Impulse project themselves over a decade ago, after previously having struggled to get traditional aircraft manufacturers to take them seriously.
"Each time I look at this airplane, I have a memory of my childhood coming back and I am sure you have the same memory: it's the Walt Disney animation cartoon Dumbo," a tongu- in-cheek Piccard told the crowd.
"When Solar Impulse was born 12 years ago and we could show the enormous wings and the light weight of its structure on a computer design, all the specialists in world aviation started to laugh like stupid people can laugh at Dumbo.

Story continues below…

"Today this airplane exists."
The first Solar Impulse took to the air in 2009.
The following year it notched up a 26-hour flight that proved it was able to stock up enough electricity during the day in order to keep flying at night.
Before its trans-American flight last year, the plane had already flown through Europe and crossed the Mediterranean to reach Morocco.

Agnes Pedrero/AFP (news@thelocal.ch)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Villagers asked to help fund bridge renovations
The bridge links the two villages of Veltheim (pictured) and Holderbank. Photo: Lutz Fischer-Lamprecht

The crowdfunding campaign by the two communes is the first of its kind in Switzerland.

Police discover body buried in Orbe house
File photo: Bas Leenders

Police have opened an investigation after finding a body buried in a house in Orbe, in the canton of Vaud, on Saturday.

Valais shaken by 4.2 magnitude earthquake
The earthquake hit in the canton of Valais near Sierre. Photo: Alain Rouiller

It's the biggest earthquake to hit the country for two years.

Swiss Indoors kicks off without champ Federer
Federer celebrates with ball girls and boys after winning the event in 2015. Photo: Harold Cunningham/Pool/AFP

Stan Wawrinka is top seed as injured Federer sits it out.

IOC hires Russian doping whistleblower as consultant
IOC President Thomas Bach confirmed the news. File photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has hired Vitaly Stepanov as a consultant and is helping his runner wife Yuliya.

‘Scary clown’ craze hits streets of Zurich
Photo: Pedro Pardo/AFP

Police in Zurich have warned so-called ‘scary clowns’ that they could face charges, following a number of incidents in the city.

VIDEO: driver chases runaway car on Swiss motorway
Image: Neuchâtel police

Shocking footage shows the moment a man dodged lorries to chase after his runaway car on a Swiss motorway.

Saas-Fee crowdfunds low-cost season ski pass
Saas-Fee is hoping to attract 99,999 season pass holders. Photo: Denis Emery/Photo-genic.ch

Skiers could get their hands on a whole season pass for just 222 francs ($223) in the Swiss resort of Saas Fee this winter – if enough people want one.

Swiss billionaire fined for dodging import tax
Urs Schwarzenbach owns the luxury Dolder Grand hotel in Zurich. Photo: Wilhem Rosenkranz

Urs Schwarzenbach faces a $4 million fine for failing to properly declare some 200 artworks imported into Switzerland.

Muslim woman wins headscarf court battle
Photo: Jack Guez / AFP

A Swiss court has ruled against a company that fired a longtime employee after she began wearing the Muslim headscarf.

Photo: Richard Juilliard/AFP
Man makes Geneva airport bomb threat ‘for a joke’
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Photo: AFP
Solar Impulse team reveals plans for unmanned plane
File photo: Martin Abegglen
Swiss to vote on passport rules for 3rd gen foreigners
Photo: AFP
Swiss wingsuit hotspot Lauterbrunnen won’t impose ban
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Six reasons Switzerland isn’t as boring as you might think
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Report: Switzerland one of world’s best places for girls
Photo: The Local
Thief returns Swiss cow bells worth thousands
File photo: Wikimedia Commons
One in three rapists isn’t locked up: statistics
Photo: activistin.ch
Tampon-tax protest turns Zurich fountains red
Photo: AFP
Geneva police to lift ban on bearded officers
Photo: Marcel Gillieron/AFP
Suicide chef’s restaurant keeps Michelin stars
Photo: Lara de Salis
11 things the Swiss get tired of hearing abroad
Photo:  Ivo Scholz/Swiss-image.ch
Survey: expats in Switzerland have money but few friends
Photo: AFP
Swiss press criticize Bern’s 'capitulation' on immigration
Photo: Jura Trois Lacs tourism
German ex-policeman is Swiss city’s new hermit
Photo: Dmitry A. Mottl
Ticino votes to favour local workers over foreigners
Photo: file
Some deodorants could cause breast cancer: Swiss study
Photo: Royal Savoy
In pictures: Inside the latest Swiss luxury hotel
Photo: AFP
Geneva airport bomb hoaxer faces 90,000-franc bill
Photo: Schaffhausen police
Mother leaves toddler son alone in car to go clubbing
Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
Swiss populist attacked by knife-wielding pensioner
jobs available