Solar Impulse Returns Safely from Africa

Image: Solar Impulse

By: Mathias Aarre Mæhlum – AfricanBrains

Solar Impulse, Switzerland’s solar-powered aircraft landed safely in Madrid, Spain, last week after it flew back from the Moroccan city of Rabat. André Borschberg, the co-founder of Solar Impulse said the following about the stage:

“With this flight to Morocco, we have validated the capacity of the airplane to fly through difficult regions,”

Below is an interview from when the crew set out fly from Rabat to Ouarzazate (stage 3), where Borschberg explains why their mission is potentially extremely dangerous:

On June 13, Solar Impulse tried to fly the Moroccan Desert, but failed due to turbulence, which gave the pilot, Borschberg, no other choice than to turn around and land safely at where he started. He succeeded the next week.

Why in the world would someone risk his or her life for a mission like this (not to mention the project price tag of $102 million)?

“By writing the next pages in aviation history with solar energy, and voyaging around the world without fuel or pollution, Solar Impulse’s ambition is for the world of exploration and innovation to contribute to the cause of renewable energies, to demonstrate the importance of clean technologies for sustainable development; and to place dreams and emotions back at the heart of scientific adventure.”

North Africa has seen a tremendous growth of solar power in the last few years. Just take a look at the Desertec project estimated at US$526bn, which likely will generate 15% of Europe’s electricity by 2050.

Ouarzazate happens to be the same city where the world`s largest concentrated solar power station of 500 MW will be built.

On solarimpulse.com, visitors can join live events online, watch both the crew on land and the pilot as the stages progresses, and now you can even “be the pilot” through Google Earth. There is no doubt that the Solar Impulse will help put renewable energy on the map.

Flies on solar power during the night

The aircraft has a wingspan more than twice of that of an Airbus 340, which doesn’t make the plane particularly speedy, but is absolute necessary in order to keep the plane in the air at a minimal cost of energy.

Solar Impulse is powered by 12000 solar cells spread out over the upper surface of the solar-powered aircraft connected to a lithium battery rig, which is sufficient supplying the four 10-horsepower motors with enough energy for both day and night.

Solar Impulse aims to fly around the world in 2014

The team behind Solar Impulse has demonstrated that the sun can power an aircraft both day and night without consuming any fuel. Their next challenge is to fly around the world.

Source: Solar Impulse