Alternative Energy Programs, General, Solar Aviation, Solar Technology

From Oman to India: A Solar Flight Record for Solar Impulse

André Borschberg & Bertrand Piccard André Borschberg & Bertrand Piccard

The record-setting 1,468km (912 mile) flight from Muscat, Oman to Ahmedabad, India took just over 15 hours. It was the second of 12 proposed legs in a historic five-month journey around the world, the first in a plane powered only by solar technology. Piccard and Borschberg will spend four days promoting clean technologies in Ahmedabad and in other regions around India. They will also spend time preparing for the next leg of the trip, from Ahmedabad to Varanasi in the northeast of the country.

The fuel-free airplane Solar Impulse set a new distance record for solar-powered flight on Tuesday, March 10th 2015. Project chairman, Bertrand Piccard, piloted the craft alongside project partner and CEO Andre Borschberg.

Despite the fact that it weighs less than an SUV, Solar Impulse boasts an impressive 72-meter (236 foot) wingspan, which is wider than a 747. In addition to its lightweight construction, Solar Impulse features 17,000 solar cells and state-of-the-art lithium-ion batteries which will be essential for powering the plane while it flies at night on long stretches over the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

These oceanic sections of the journey will be the most challenging; the plane’s single prop and regularly slow flying speed will require several consecutive days and nights of continuous flight. On these trans-oceanic stretches Piccard and Borschberg will alternate piloting solo and will be forced to limit their sleep to twenty-minute power naps. This practice may sound daunting, but it is widely used by solo yachtsmen who navigate their craft around the world.

This record setting voyage is part of a long list of accomplishments for both the aircraft and the crew. Solar Impulse has already set records and garnered attention for its 2013 transit of the United States. Borschberg was trained as an engineer and was a celebrated air force pilot before starting his second career as an entrepreneur in Internet technology. Piccard is also a celebrated aviator known for his 1999 voyage with Brian Jones that set the record for the first non-stop circumnavigation of the globe in a balloon.

In addition to solidifying the reputations of these two pilots, the success of Solar Impulse’s journey around the world will be a landmark achievement for the fields of aviation and renewable energy.

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The author is passionate about technology and interested on everything related to solar energy, he studied at the UC Irvine and the SAE Institute in Germany.
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From Oman to India: A Solar Flight Record for Solar Impulse
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