It’s a bird, it’s a plane it’s a revolutionary concept aircraft – Solar Impulse takes flight!

Solar Impulse prototype, photo credit: Solar Impulse

Solar Impulse is a favorite here at Cavotec (see here) so we are thrilled to read (and watch the video) about their first full successful test flight after several test “hops” since December. We look forward to 2012, when the Solar Impulse will try its first transatlantic flight before attempting to fly around the globe.

Solar Impulse takes flight!

HB-SIA cockpit, ©Le Truc/Solar Impulse

HB-SIA cockpit, ©Le Truc/Solar Impulse

We have been following the Solar Impulse project since this past summer, here, here and here.  What began as a fascinating idea is now a reality – at 13.11 today, the Solar Impulse HB-SIA, the first airplane designed to fly day and night without fuel, left the ground for the first time.

After overwhelming positive ground tests conducted over the past few weeks, test pilot Markus Scherdel got the go-ahead to take the prototype up to its take-off speed. After some 350 metres of flight at an altitude of one meter, the prototype landed on the center of the runway.

Starting in early 2010 onwards, the aircraft will be making its first solar test flights, gradually increasing flight duration until it makes its first night flight using solar energy.

As Bertrand Piccard, initiator and President of Solar Impulse said, “It’s a long way between these initial tests and a circumnavigation of the world” but we are excited to follow the journey.

Solar Impulse to leave the hangar!

HB-SIA prototype, ©Le Truc/Solar Impulse

HB-SIA prototype, ©Le Truc/Solar Impulse

We have followed the Solar Impulse, a solar-powered airplane, on this site, here and here.  It’s a revolutionary project that has strong implications for a key industry we are involved in – Airports.

Now we are please to report that today, weather permitting, the HB-SIA prototype will be leaving its hangar at Dübendorf aerodrome near Zurich.  From there it will undergo an initial series of stationary tests involving its four engines, followed by the electromagnetic interference. These tests will be supervised by astronaut Claude Nicollier with professional German test pilot, Markus Scherdel, at the controls.

We continue to support this project and other like minded innovations – we will keep you posted on any progress.

Solar-powered aircraft – industry saviour?

Last month we wrote about the unveiling of the Solar Impulse solar-powered aircraft – an inspiring project that could be part of the solution for an industry that “has been battered from all directions since the financial system nearly collapsed in September, ” as described in the International Herald Tribune on July 14, 2009.

As Bertrand Piccard, President and Initiator of the project said on the day of the unveiling, “We all share the same human values, the same spirit for a more sustainable future.  Protecting the environment is vital.  But it should also be profitable. Otherwise, nobody is going to commit himself to find the solutions and to change something in this world.”

Is Solar Impulse a sustainable, but profitable solution that could help a “struggling” industry?

Watch a clip of the Solar Impulse unveiling day by clicking here.

Achieving the impossible

“All that is impossible remains to be achieved.”

-Jules Verne

 HB-SIA prototype, ©Le Truc/Solar Impulse

HB-SIA prototype, ©Le Truc/Solar Impulse

This inspiring quote runs in the banner on the Solar Impulse homepage.  And today, Solar Impluse unveils a seemingly impossible project – the HB-SIA solar-powered aircraft prototype.

As an active supplier in the Airports industry, constantly on the look-out for innovative solutions to reduce the industry’s environmental impact, this is encouraging news for Cavotec.  The project is in part sponsored by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) of which we are a Strategic Partners, so we are keen on following the development of this monumental venture.

Solar cells on wing surface ©Le Truce/Solar Impulse

Solar cells on wing surface ©Le Truc/Solar Impulse

The prototype unveiled today represents a trade-off between weight and performance.  Currently, the HB-SIA has a wingspan of 61 metres, a weight of just 1,500 kg and has room for a pilot only.  The upper surfaces of the wings are embedded with 12,000 photovoltaic cells that convert sunlight into electricity.  It flies relatively slowly, at about 70kph in windless conditions.  However, if the prototype succeeds in flying through the night, the design of its successor, the HB-SIB will be finalised.

The first test flight isplanned for later in the year.

For more information about the HB-SIA, the June 13th edition of the Economist features an artcile on the projoect, or visit the Solar Impulse website.

What do you think?  Is today forever marked as the day the Airports industry started anew?