The Solar Impulse has a gigantic wingspan of over 200 feet, which is the same size as a Boeing 747, but weighs only 3,500 pounds. 11,000 solar cells line the aircraft’s wings, which are used to power the plane.
Piccard and Borschberg are co-founders of the large project and both pilots. Piccard is the initiator and Chairman for the Solar Impulse and is also a psychiatrist and aeronaut. He was the first person to take a non-stop flight around the world in a balloon. His partner Borschberg is the CEO of the project, an engineer and a pilot – fighter pilot as well as a professional airplane and helicopter pilot.
In an interview with CNN, the pair described the feeling of seeing the plane take flight as intense. It was a relief to see the Solar Impulse touch back onto the ground after 7 years of the whole team’s hard work.
“We had the confirmation that the team who worked on this solar airplane for the last 7 years did an astounding job. This prototype is an amazingly complicated piece of engineering, with the wingspan of a jumbo jet, the weight of a car and the average power of a small motorcycle,” said Piccard.
Piccard and the team were surprised by the heights that the Solar Impulse reached, as it was higher than they had originally expected. There are big plans for the future of the plane, which focuses on renewable energy and what it can do for our planet.
“The objective of this first prototype is to demonstrate by this summer, the feasibility of a night flight propelled only by solar energy. Before that, we’ll do several additional test flights, each lasting a bit longer, until we complete the first complete day-night-day flight cycle. Then with the experience of this first aircraft we will start the design of a second airplane whose objectives will be to cross the Atlantic and then by 2013, to fly around the world in five legs, each lasting five days.
The team is pioneering it’s way toward all technology being powered by solar energy and hopes to make that shift in the near future. Piccard is realistic and realizes that some professionals in the industry may not be open to the change but he and his team feel that this new trend in aviation will be a regular thing, it just may take some time.