It has the wingspan of a Boeing 777, but weighs only as much as a family car. It has four propellers, but doesn’t consume an ounce of fuel. It is, to say the least, unique in the aviation world. And if you’re in Paris this June, you’ll have the unique opportunity to see it take to the skies.
I’m talking about the Solar Impulse HB-SIA, the first plane designed to fly round the clock using solar power. Equipped with four electric motors powered by 12000 solar cells, the HB-SIA has already made several flights, but always within Swiss borders. That’s about to change.
Recently, the HB-SIA received clearance to make its first European flight. The first stop is Brussels, where the plane will be on display from May 23 to 29. From there, the HB-SIA will fly to Paris, where it will make a guest appearance at the International Paris Air Show, from June 20 to 26. Weather permitting, the HB-SIA will fly over the air show every morning, allowing visitors to see a plane powered only by the sun.
As mentioned in previous posts (see here and here), QNX is the realtime operating system provider for the Solar Impulse project. I hope to provide more details in coming posts.
Here's an Associated Press video documenting the completion of the HB-SIA's first 24-hour flight (you may have to wait out a 10-second commercial):
By the way, the Solar Impulse team doesn't have suffer from any delusions that solar-powered planes will someday replace conventional aircraft. Their main goal is promote greater use of renewable energy. To quote Bertrand Piccard, the plane's creator, "Solar Impulse is being developed primarily to change the energy consumption philosophy. We want [everyone] to understand that the renewable energy sources can be used quite effectively."