Business & GA

Solar Impulse 2 Becomes First Solar-Powered Aircraft to Cross Atlantic Ocean

By Woodrow Bellamy III  | June 23, 2016
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[Avionics Magazine 06-23-2016] The solar/electric-powered Solar Impulse 2 aircraft landed in Seville, Spain on Thursday January 23, after completing a 71-hour flight with no fuel across the Atlantic Ocean. Covering a distance of 4,203 miles, the landing in Spain marks the first ever transatlantic flight completed using electric and solar power, according to the Solar Impulse team.
A picture of the Solar Impulse 2 aircraft flying over the Atlantic Ocean. Photo: Solar Impulse.
The transatlantic flight is the latest leg of the Solar Impulse team's goal of flying the zero-fuel Solar Impulse 2 aircraft around the world. Solar Impulse 2 is the second solar powered aircraft being used by Swiss pilots and founders of the Solar Impulse project, Andre Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard, in an attempt to fly around the world using no fuel. In 2015, the aircraft flew eight stages from Abu Dhabi to Kalaeloa, but was eventually grounded for 10 months due to battery damage and a wait for optimum daylight length to return to the northern hemisphere. 
The Solar Impulse aircraft is powered by the 17,000 photovoltaic cells that rest below the solar panels on the upper part of the wings. The cells capture the energy of the sun and transform it into electricity, simultaneously powering the four engines and lithium ion batteries. While the airplane is in flight, it is powered by the energy of the sun, storing excess energy in the batteries, which can than be used at night or whenever sunlight is unavailable. The team sees the project more as a demonstration of solar power, rather than a technological template for future aviation applications.
At the controls of Solar Impulse 2, Bertrand Piccard touched down at the Seville Airport in Spain Thursday morning after taking off from New York early Tuesday morning. The transatlantic flight was completed reaching a maximum altitude of 28,000 feet and average ground speed of 59 mph.

The Eagle Patrol of the Spanish Air Force welcomed the landing. The mission will now continue onward to Abu Dhabi where it originated in March 2015.  

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