Recently, the team behind Solar Impulse (Si2), the single-seater carbon fiber plane which is attempting to make history by flying around the world only with solar energy, announced its intent to continue the journey on April 20, 2016. It will takeoff from Honolulu, making its first stop in either Vancouver, Canada, San Francisco, Los Angeles, or Phoenix. It will then fly across the US to land in New York. The stage after that takes the Solar Impulse across the Atlantic Ocean to somewhere in the U.K., France, Spain or Morocco. Before its final landing in Abu Dhabi, UAE, there will be “probable stops” in either Greece, Egypt or Saudi Arabia.
Last March, pilots André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard began the first leg of the journey from Abu Dhabi, headed for Muscat, Oman before crossing the Arabian Sea to Ahmedabad, India. Over the summer, Borschberg broke the world record for solo endurance flight, flying the Solar Impulse 76 hours and 45 minutes from Nagoya, Japan to Hawaii. However, on July 15, after the landing, the team behind Solar Impulse reported that the damaged batteries that overheated during the historic flight would take months to replace.
Now, the team reports, the plane will be ready to go by April thanks to the $20 million sponsorship it needs to finish the trip. One sponsor was ACMA member Covestro, which has been a Solar Impulse project partner since 2010 and is also its official technical partner.
Solar Impulse has 17,248 solar cells that supply the plane with renewable energy. The cells recharge four lithium polymer batteries totaling 633 kilograms (1,395 pounds) each. Covestro was responsible for the design and construction of the Si2 cockpit which utilizes advanced polyurethane and polycarbonate systems, significantly reducing the weight of the plane while ensuring ultimate protection for the pilot.
Another player in the development of the Solar Impulse is Dassault Systèmes, whose engineers designed the plane’s wings, which are wider than a Boeing 747-8I, with carbon fiber composites which had to be as light as possible while providing the lift needed at a cruising speed of around 90 kph. Overall, the plane weighs just 2,300 kilograms (5,070 pounds) – the largest aircraft ever built with such a low weight.