Golden Age Technology
 
Solar Impulse: Soaring to New Heights in Solar Aviation      
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Loving viewers, greetings and welcome to Golden Age Technology on Supreme Master Television featuring the first in a two-part program on the Solar Impulse, a Swiss solar-powered airplane that is reaching unprecedented heights in sustainable aviation.

On July 7, 2010, in a memorable day in the history of manned flight, the Solar Impulse HB-SIA prototype set off on an extraordinary trip. Pilot André Borschberg flew the single-seat plane through the day and using solar cell-generated electricity stored in on-board lithium polymer batteries, continued to fly through the night as well – a first-time achievement for a solar powered plane.

Twenty-six hours after take-off, the plane landed even as its batteries were recharging in the morning Sun. The voyage set three new world records for a solar powered aircraft: 1) reaching an absolute altitude of 9,235 meters, 2) achieving a height gain of 8,744 meters and 3) flying for the longest period ever - 26 hours 10 minutes and 19 seconds.

The HB-SIA is a large glider-like airplane with nearly 12,000 photovoltaic cells on its wings and tail. These cells supply electricity to the four 10-horsepower electric motors which spin the craft’s twin-blade propellers at 200 to 400 revolutions a minute. The solar cells generate enough energy during the day for running the motors as well as charging the batteries which power the plane at night.

Solar Impulse SA was co-founded in 2003 by two Swiss aviation pioneers, balloonist Bertrand Piccard, who is also known for completing the first non-stop balloon flight around the globe, and professional airplane and helicopter pilot André Borschberg. Since the Solar Impulse project’s inception, the team has grown remarkably.

There are now 50 specialists from six countries, each playing an important part in the venture’s success. The Solar Impulse project has gained widespread recognition for its accomplishments thus far, garnering the Swiss Solar Prize in September 2010, followed by winning the European Solar Prize in October 2010 in the category of “Transport and Mobility.”

My name is André Borschberg. I’m the CEO and one of the pilots of the Solar Impulse project.

The objective of this airplane is to demonstrate that we can fly day and night, using only solar energy. And that’s what we attempted on July 7th (2010), taking off at 7 o’clock in the morning, and as we landed 26 hours later, we could demonstrate that this is feasible. And that was very, very important for us. Of course, it was important for the project because after seven years’ work (if) you fail it’s maybe difficult to continue.

But if you succeed and demonstrate it works, that I think it is important also for the outside world because it shows that the technologies we have available really can help to save energy. And with this airplane we fly and we have available from the Sun energy to power the airplane and the power we have is the (amount of) power for a scooter. So it’s extremely small. And so to fly with the power of a scooter, of course you need to find ways to save energy everywhere, to make it sufficient. And that’s the demonstration that we want to make with Solar Impulse.

On September 21, 2010, marking 100-years since an aircraft first linked the Swiss cities of Payerne and Geneva, André Borschberg successfully piloted the first-ever solar powered flight across Switzerland. That day the HB-SIA flew from an airfield in Payerne to Geneva International Airport and back, and the next day from Payerne to Zurich International Airport and back. The event also marked the first time the craft flew amidst the busy air traffic of Switzerland’s two major international airports.

I saw you land in Geneva. The wingspan is enormous. Did they have to clear all the runways for you to be able to land?

Well, it’s similar size as an Airbus 340 jumbo jet. So as we (are) using their infrastructure, that’s fine. I think where we have been careful is not to be blown away by the jet blast of these big airliners, so we had very good coordination with the airport. They (Geneva) invited us in fact, as well as Zurich, so with this excellent coordination there was no risk.

But of course there was a big emotional response, in fact, to be able to land in this huge airport and see this solar powered airplane next to the existing airliners. So that was also very, very special.

While its 64-meter wingspan is comparable to that of an Airbus A340, a very large commercial passenger aircraft, engineers had to ensure that the Solar Impulse’s weight was kept to an absolute minimum so it could carry the 400 kilograms of lithium polymer batteries that provide energy during the night. In fact this load comprises more than 25% of the plane’s total weight. To achieve this goal, the Solar Impulse design team worked in harmony with suppliers in order to create the best and lightest possible materials and components.

As this airplane has little power available, efficiency is the key word with our team and our partners. And to make this airplane efficient, of course we try to make it first aerodynamically efficient. That’s the reason why it’s so big because this big wingspan provides more lift, which we need in fact to carry the weight, and less drag, so lower losses. So that’s the first reason.

And then when we talk about the efficiency of course, all the systems, you go for the best electric motors, but also the lightest batteries. And this has been developed with our partners and then our suppliers. And the other element which is of course extremely important, is the weight.

If we want to reduce the energy consumption of a car, we have to reduce the weight of the car, which we can, and that’s what we did on this airplane. We have an airplane the size of an Airbus, but with weight only of a mid-sized car, so about 1,600 kilograms. So the challenge was to reach this goal, in fact, this weight. How to build it, how to make it stiff enough, solid enough, because it looks fragile, but that’s an airplane which can fly in (wind) gusts, so it’s robust.

Bayer MaterialScience, a German company, is an official partner of the Solar Impulse project and is providing state-of- the-art lightweight polymer materials and energy- conservation technology as well as technical advice to the Solar Impulse engineering team.

For Bayer MaterialScience, the Solar Impulse project is absolutely perfect for us because this demonstrates how we can bring material benefits to lightweight structures to this project. And at the end of the day this is a project about the future.

This is showing to people how behavior can be changed and how we can reach solutions to the problems of the planet which really are sustainable and workable for the future. So we’re really excited to be part of the project. We’re really enjoying the partnership and we look forward to a great success together.

While requiring advanced technology to meet many of the endeavor’s objectives, surprisingly some key components such as the solar cells, the batteries and the electric motor were not specially developed for the Solar Impulse plane and are commonly available to the public.

We use technologies which are also available in the market for everybody. The electric motors that we use could be used also in cars, or in bikes. The batteries we use can also be used in transportation. So this efficiency that we have now available can be implemented in many applications on the ground as well.

Would it be possible to power a house with the solar cells used by the Solar Impulse aircraft?

Yes, they’re not so different. I mean they are differently integrated because these solar cells make the upper part of the wing so we have a process of integration which is of course different than what you would do on a roof. But these solar cells are used on ground applications, on houses. They have a high efficiency, though they are a little bit more expensive. But for places where the surface is limited and where in fact we need more energy collected from the Sun, this is an excellent solution.

From the outset, the Solar Impulse project has had lofty ambitions, including a planned crossing of the Atlantic Ocean and a round-the-world flight. In 2011, the project’s second plane, the HB-SIB, will be built. It will have enhanced features such as a pressurized cabin and advanced avionics that will make non-stop, trans-continental and transoceanic flights possible.

We did this flight through the night. And with this we could really measure everything on this airplane and understand where we can improve. And now with this data available, we start the design of the second airplane and it will be built and then assembled and tested. So we plan to do the first flight around the world with this airplane around 2014.

But in the mean time we continue flying this prototype airplane. We did flights through Switzerland, landed in Geneva, and landed in Zurich. So you know, we went away from the nest we have here in Payerne. So that was a good experience. And we plan to visit some major European cities with this airplane. And the year after maybe make the first transcontinental flights, building our experience in using solar power to propel the airplane.

Through the dedication and leadership of André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard, combined with their team members and partners, the Solar Impulse project will surely create new and exciting possibilities for the future of solar aviation and sustainable energy technology. We applaud all involved in the Solar Impulse project for continuing to set the standard of excellence in their field.

For more details on the Solar Impulse project, please visit Please join us again next week for the conclusion of our two-part series, as we meet more of the team behind the HB-SIA and the forthcoming HB-SIB Solar Impulse aircraft.

Joyful viewers, we appreciated your company today on Golden Age Technology. Coming up next is Vegetarianism: The Noble Way of Living, after Noteworthy News. May your inherent Divine wisdom and inspiration be your trusted guide in all your endeavors.
The objective of this airplane is to demonstrate that we can fly day and night, using only solar energy. And that’s what we attempted on July 7th (2010), taking off at 7 o’clock in the morning, and as we landed 26 hours later, we could demonstrate that this is feasible. And that was very, very important for us.

Of course, it was important for the project because after seven years’ work (if) you fail it’s maybe difficult to continue. But if you succeed and demonstrate it works, that I think it is important also for the outside world because it shows that the technologies we have available really can help to save energy.

Creative viewers, welcome to Golden Age Technology. On a bright, sunny morning on July 7, 2010, a new chapter in aviation was about to begin. Swiss pilot André Borschberg embarked on a flight that upon landing 26 hours later, would set three new world records and redefine the limits of aviation forever. His craft was the Solar Impulse HB-SIA and it was the first ever piloted plane to fly through the day and night fueled exclusively by solar energy.

We are ready, the runway is clear, and the chase crew are in position.

The historic flight was the culmination of seven years of research, development and testing by the intelligent men and women behind the Solar Impulse project. The team features a group of aviation and technology experts led by Solar Impulse SA’s founders Bertrand Piccard, the company’s chairman and André Borschberg the firm’s chief executive officer.

The HB-SIA is a large glider-like airplane with nearly 12,000 photovoltaic cells on its wings and tail. These cells supply electricity to the four 10-horsepower electric motors which spin the craft’s twin-blade propellers at 200 to 400 revolutions a minute. The solar cells generate enough energy during the day for running the motors as well as charging the batteries which power the plane at night.

Hey guys from the team, we can all count together! 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, go! We made it! We made it, guys!

The voyage set three new world records for a solar powered aircraft: 1) reaching an absolute altitude of 9,235 meters, 2) achieving a height gain of 8,744 meters and 3) flying for the longest period ever - 26 hours 10 minutes and 19 seconds. But more importantly for the Solar Impulse project was that this success showed the world that long-distance solar powered flight is possible and that the future of sustainable air travel is bright.

Before the take-off of yesterday morning, we were convinced that with sustainable energies, you can achieve a lot of things. But so many people were skeptical. And we couldn’t prove we were right. We lacked credibility. After landing, we have the credibility. After landing we have shown that with sustainable energies, and energy savings, you can achieve impossible things. So there is a before and after in terms of what people have to believe and understand about sustainable energies.

André did not land because he was out of fuel. There was no fuel. He did not land because it was out of batteries, because the batteries were recharging. No, he landed because he had proven everything that we wanted to prove with this first flight of Solar Impulse through the night.

So there will be other flights, of course, because it’s an epic, it’s not just a one shot adventure. There will be a second airplane to fly through the Atlantic (Ocean), a second airplane to fly around the world. And we’ll work on it later on, but now we really have to enjoy this incredible success and to congratulate André for this absolutely extraordinary flight.

Mr. Piccard, who is also a psychiatrist, is renowned for having completed the world’s first non-stop balloon flight around the globe in 1999, an achievement that stamped his name in the aviation history books. He soon thereafter began planning an even loftier challenge and with a noble vision of creating a clean, green future for our world, Solar Impulse became his next great adventure.

If we want to spread a message regarding sustainable energies, we must do it in a positive and compelling way. We must necessarily make something spectacular which draws the attention in a positive way, which gives some hope and which shows that we can fly without any fuel and without time limit.

It's true that the purpose is to demonstrate what the current technologies can do.

To be sure the 26-hour flight of the HB-SIA prototype aircraft is a milestone in solar aviation history and a great achievement for the Solar Impulse project. Yet from the outset Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg have had an even more challenging objective. A new version of the Solar Impulse is to be constructed during this year, with enhanced features such as a pressurized cabin and advanced avionics that will make even longer flights possible.

The new craft, to be called the HB-SIB, will attempt a circumnavigation of the globe in the coming years. The ambitious journey is proposed to be completed within a 20 to 25-day period, with the solar airplane stopping in five continents along the way.

We will go around the world with a second plane which is in the conception phase at the moment.

And now we start the design of the second airplane and it will be built and then assembled and tested. So we plan to do the first flight around the world with this airplane around 2014.

But in the mean time we continue flying this prototype airplane.

We plan to visit some major European cities with this airplane. And the year after maybe make the first transcontinental flights.

And maybe also the Atlantic (Ocean) crossing like (Charles) Lindbergh did in 1927, but this time only with solar energy.

Since its start in 2003, the Solar Impulse project has received technical advice from major institutions such as the European Space Agency and the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), which is one of two Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology. The project has expanded its staffing over the years and now features a team of 50 specialists from six countries, with approximately 100 outside advisors offering additional support.

Swiss pilot and physicist Claude Nicollier has many years of aviation and spaceflight experience, including four space missions as an astronaut, and thus is an invaluable member of the group conducting flight testing for the Solar Impulse project.

I am Claude Nicollier. I am a Swiss citizen and I’ve been a pilot and a scientist for my whole life. I had the privilege of going to space also, so I was an astronaut for a while. And right now I am teaching at EPFL (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne) in Lausanne (Switzerland) and supporting the Solar Impulse project as lead flight test operator.

I have a lot of faith in the project and I think it’s a great goal that Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg have set for themselves, to go around the world with a solar airplane. And I was approached by Borschberg about four years ago, and he suggested that I participate in the project as the lead flight test operator. I immediately accepted.

I have experience as a test pilot also, a long, long life as a pilot, civilian and military pilot and I went to test pilot school in 1988. So I thought I could do that and I thought that was a good way for me to support a project that I believe in very much.

Sébastien Demont is another important member of the Solar Impulse project. Besides being a team leader, it is his task to determine which technologies to use in the airplane as well as make sure all parts of the plane work together. His responsibilities include the design, the architecture and the testing of the electrical system and its control functions.

My name is Sébastien Demont. I am the electrical team leader for Solar Impulse.

So my team is composed of Sepp Niedernhuber, Stefan Brönnimann, David Glassey, Antoine Toth and Hans Vistaman and myself. So we are building a solar airplane, so the team is divided into groups of people: the engineering part and the integration part.

So the engineering part is mainly choosing the components that they will use for the airplane, then designing the prototypes, testing the prototypes, and developing the electronics.

And the integration part of the team is integrating all these components and the cabling and so on in the airplane. So one big milestone was to freeze the technology that we used for the airplane. Okay, we know that we could have better (solar) cells or better batteries but at a certain point we need to freeze all the technology and then to integrate them all together.

American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” It is with this trailblazing spirit that the Solar Impulse project has and continues to reach new heights in global aviation.

We would like to convey our respect and well wishes to Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg as well as to the Solar Impulse project’s multinational team of experts, advisors and partners. By seeing the imagination and vision of these talented people, we know that we can achieve any noble goal if we set our minds to it.

The Solar Impulse project is not only an airplane, it’s also a message. You have discovered the airplane today. Please also take the message back home and spread it as far as you can. We can have a good quality of life in this world. We can solve the financial crisis, we can fight poverty, and we can protect the environment, only by inventing the future with enough pioneering spirit.

That’s why we need each of you to relay this state of mind; to push politicians and industrialists to do the same. We would like you to be the ambassadors of Solar Impulse. Thank you!

For more details on the Solar Impulse project, please visit

Radiant viewers, thank you for joining us today on Golden Age Technology. Coming up next on Supreme Master Television is Vegetarianism: The Noble Way of Living, after Noteworthy News. May we all strive to bring about a truly peaceful and harmonious planet.

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