Current solar airplanes are not designed to store energy and therefore have to land in cases of insufficient sunlight (clouds or night time). In so doing they mark the limits of solar energy. Other projects are seeking to fly remote controlled solar drones or hydrogen-powered airplanes. To demonstrate the formidable potential of renewable energies, Solar Impulse intends to place the bar much higher and have a piloted aircraft fly night and day without fuel.
Solar Impulse is building the first prototype airplane that aims to demonstrate the feasibility of flying day and night, only propelled by solar energy.
For Bertrand Piccard, the initiator and president of the project, this airplane is the symbol of the new technologies that our society ought to be capable of rallying behind it in order to economize the energy resources of our planet.
Solar Impulse, in this sense, really means what its name says. The sun provides the energy, but the impulse to use it has to be transmitted to people who are ready to receive it and carry it further. In any case, it demonstrates the importance of tomorrow’s adventures being linked to the search for a better quality of life.
The first test flights will take place in early 2009.
In 2011, Piccard and André Borschberg (CEO) will fly around the world with five stopovers.
IATA will help make this dream a reality by providing support including assistance in obtaining air traffic control clearance.
“In one year’s time, Solar Impulse will fly without any polluting emissions, but will carry only one person. To achieve IATA’s vision there are a little more than 40 years left to find a way to increase the payload to a few hundred passengers,” said Piccard. [Source]