Solar Impulse ready to resume first round-the-world solar flight

Swiss pioneers Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg are ready to resume their attempt to achieve the first ever round-the-world solar flight with Solar Impulse 2 (Si2). After replacing overheated batteries and running maintenance flights, the team is now re-entering ‘mission mode’.

On 3 July 2015, Si2 landed in Hawaii after a record breaking flight of five days and nights from Japan to Hawaii, accomplished by Borschberg. During this flight, the airplane suffered battery damage due to overheating which led to the aircraft being grounded through the winter months where daylight hours were short.

“As we experienced many times with Solar Impulse, obstacles often turn out to be opportunities for improvement,” explained Borschberg, CEO and co-founder of the project. “Ultimately, this time was used to recreate the strong mindset within the team to continue our adventure. It takes sometimes more time to build up the right spirit then to develop new technologies.”

Between late February and mid-April 2016, Si2 accomplished a total of 13 flights. Maintenance flights, carried out by Si2’s test pilot, confirmed the good performance of the aircraft and proper functioning of the newly integrated cooling system, installed to safeguard the batteries from temperature-related glitches. They were followed by a series of training flights completed by both Piccard and Borschberg, including a high altitude flight.

“An airplane with perpetual flight endurance, without fuel, like Si2 is not only a first in the history of aviation, but also in the history of energy,” emphasised Piccard, initiator and chairman of the project. “The primary purpose of this adventure is to demonstrate that modern clean technologies can achieve the impossible and encourage everyone to use these same energy efficient solutions on the ground in their daily lives for mobility, construction, lighting, heating, cooling and more.”

When the weather is right, Si2 will resume its round-the-world endeavour and take off for the West coast of North America. The mission will then continue onward to New York, Europe or North Africa and Abu Dhabi where it started.