Solar Impulse prototype unveiled
Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg today unveiled, at Dübendorf airfield close to Zurich, the Solar Impulse HB-SIA, the first aircraft designed to fly both day and night without fossil fuel or pollution.
The presentation of the prototype took place in front of more than 800 persons, including 200 representatives of the international media, and many high-ranking guests among them H.S.H. Albert II of Monaco, the Swiss Minister of Energy and Environment, the CEOs of Solvay, Omega and Deutsche Bank and the CEO of the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg first retraced the history of the project since it was launched in 2003. 6 years of intense work, calculations, simulations and tests were needed by the 70-person team to complete this totally unprecedented aircraft: with the wingspan of a Boeing 747-400 and the weight of an average family car (1600 kg), never has such a large craft been built with such low weight. Over 12,000 solar cells mounted onto the wing will supply renewable energy to the four electric motors with a maximum power of 10 HP each. During the day they will also charge the lithium-polymer batteries (400 kg), which will permit the HB-SIA to fly through the night.
The HB-SIA is the first prototype of the Solar Impulse project. Its mission is to demonstrate the feasibility of a complete day-night-day cycle propelled solely by solar energy. After fine-tuning on the ground, the aircraft should make its first test flights between now and the end of 2009, first of all at Dübendorf airport (canton of Zurich) and then from Payerne air base (canton of Vaud). A first complete night flight is programmed for 2010 and will take place over Switzerland.