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 It seemed to be possible only in science fiction stories, instead, to travel on a sustainable aircraft powered by alone solar energy it’s feasible today. I am talking about the Solar Impulse 2 model, an aircraft perfected after many years of engineering studies. Fascinated by the hard work to realize it and by its environmental effects maybe one day we will wish to travel on it!

Solar Impulse 2
photo 1: Solar Impulse 2 aircraft

A revolution in the field of engineering and in the industry of renewable resources. Today it’s possible to travel by solar energy support! The HB-SIB, that’s Solar Impulse 2, prove it. Took off at the sunrise on 21 April 2016 from Kalaeola airport, Hawaii, it crossed through Pacific Ocean for 62 hours and then landed in San Francisco, California. In the driver’s seat the Swiss psychologist and explorer Bertrand Piccard and  the aereonautical engeneering André Borschberg,  both enthusiasts for their sustainable mission that lasted two half past days as planned. The technology is reliable as much as sustainable. Planned in 2011 by Losanna Polytechnic Federal Institute, the Solar Impulse 2 is a carbon fiber plane of 2.300 kg with 72 metres wingspan. Its 17.000 silicon photovoltaic cells load more than 630 kg of lithium batteries, powering four electric motors. An ultralight aircraft, whose weight is the same to the one of a SUV… a feather weight in comparison with the 180 tons of a Jumbo Jet! Nevertheless, Solar Impulse 2 is the first airplane able to circumnavigate the globe in 20-25 days, flying both day and night through solar energy stored during daylight hours. Don’t  you believe it, right?

Piccard explains Solar Impulse 2 project to journalist
photo 2: Piccard explains Solar Impulse 2 project to journalist

Its history started in the 2003 with HB-SIA, the first prototype presented in 2009 and tested with a flight of 24 hours one year later. From that moment other tests were performed until to realize the HB-SIB project. A very important mission for Solar Impulse 2, that has taken off for the first time from Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, in the March of 2015, where it would have been returned at the end of summer. But a series of complications slowed the journey: for rough weather in Cina, it changed in direction towards Japan where it was damaged by a storm. From that moment it stopped. Then, 20 million dollars allowed to invest in new batteries and cooling system. The Solar Impulse 2 flew over the Pacific Ocean, so overcoming the most important test. Now it’s ready to cross also the Atlantic Ocean to reach Europe or North Africa at the end of this summer and to land there where it started.

The tenacity of Losanna Polytechnic team realized an impossible project, “achieving unimaginable results” said Piccard. This raises hopes for a sustainable future in which it will possible to fly without polluting. Next Solar Impact 2 aim is to fly without fuel for consecutive 5 days and 5 nights with only one pilot in an not pressurized cockpit. If we think about how many airs take off and land every day on one side and the other of the World and about the effects of CO2 emissions on the environment, Solar Impulse 2 is already a revolution in the history of aviation. Imagine to travel on a safely and comfortable air without pollution. A few steps towards engineering progress and Piccard and Borschberg will revolutionize the aviation policy. Finally we could talk about sustainable travel. This goal seems to be not so far away.


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