Solar Impulse announces flight across America for next year


December 13, 2012

The Solar Impulse HB-SIA solar-powered aircraft (Photo: Solar Impulse)

The Solar Impulse HB-SIA solar-powered aircraft (Photo: Solar Impulse)

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Flush with success from their 6,000-km (3,728-mile) Europe-to-Africa round-trip flight earlier this year, the duo behind the Solar Impulse solar-powered aircraft are now planning on flying it across America next spring. It will mark the first time that a solar-powered plane has traversed the country.

Solar Impulse partners Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg made the official announcement this Tuesday, although the logistics of the flight have yet to be finalized. They have stated that the trip will be broken into 20-hour legs, starting at San Francisco and proceeding to New York City. As with their previous multi-leg flights, the two pilots will take turns flying the aircraft.

According to a report on Inhabitat, the Solar Impulse airplane (officially known as the HB-SIA) will be taken apart at its home base in Switzerland next March. It will then be packed into containers, flown in a 747 to California, and then reassembled over the course of three weeks. It is due to take off from San Francisco sometime in May.

The single-passenger 1,600-kg (3,527-lb) aircraft incorporates 11,628 solar cells on the top of its wing and horizontal stabilizer. These power its four 10-hp electric motors, and also charge its 400 kilograms (882 lbs) of lithium batteries – allowing it to fly at night. A new aircraft, the HB-SIB, is being developed for a round-the-world flight planned for 2015.

Source: Solar Impulse via Inhabitat

Update: It has been pointed out to us that the Sunseeker I solar-powered aircraft flew from Southern California to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina in 1990.

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

Would it not be more of a statement to take off from Kittyhawk, travel via Florida, via California and end somewhere in the area of Seattle? Then you could include, the beginnings, all of the NASA locations and end near Boeing


Strange that they fly eastward, making the day shorter. If they start in NYC and fly west, the day with sun will be longer. Then they could turn east again making the night shorter and when they meet the sun in the morning they go west again. Should require less night-fly batteries. But maybe the low speed makes this strategy a marginal improvement. Impressive airplane anyway!

Kenneth Palmestål

depending on its airspeed it may never be able to go East to West due to head winds


Over N. America, the weather generally moves from west to east. In flying from east to west they would be bucking this trend all the way. Not a good idea...


Wonder if it might take a lesson from the drones, put in some sensors and fly it from Europe to USA from a comfort of a living room?


One of the project leaders is Bertrand Piccard, who will be an ancestor of Jean Luc Picard.

This looks very much like a free flight model airplane.

Mark Arnold
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