Success! Solar Impulse 2 completes trans-Pacific flight

Solar-powered plane lands in Santa Clara county after nonstop, 62-hour trip

Solar Impulse flies over Golden Gate Bridge
Source: Solar Impulse
Imagine you are piloting a plane the size of a 747. But unlike a 747, this plane has an unheated, unpressurized cockpit in which temperatures fall as low as -40°. Moreover, you have to fly for over 60 hours straight, without ever getting up to stretch. And as for sleep, don’t count on getting much. You can take naps, but only about 6 a day, each lasting 20 minutes.

Sound like your kind of challenge? If so, you should sign up to join the Solar Impulse team. Because that’s exactly the kind of endurance needed to pilot Solar Impulse 2, the solar-powered plane that has just completed the latest leg of its historic round-the-world flight.

Last Thursday, Solar Impulse 2 took off from Kalaeloa, Hawaii, with pilot Bertrand Piccard at the helm. (This is the same Piccard who, in 1999, became the first person to complete a non-stop balloon circumnavigation of the earth.) Sixty-two hours later, the plane touched down on Moffett airfield, in Santa Clara county. From there, it will fly to several points across the U.S. before it takes off from New York for a non-stop flight across the Atlantic Ocean.

Solar Impulse 2 has four propellers, but doesn’t sip an ounce of fuel. Instead, it relies solely on the power of the sun. As such, it is a testament to modern technology. But as I’ve already hinted, it is also a testament to the depths of human endurance and stick-with-it-ness. If you were impressed that anyone could pilot a plane for over 60 hours straight, consider the plane’s nonstop solo flight from Japan to Hawaii, which took 120 hours from start to finish!

QNX Software Systems is proud to be the official realtime OS partner for the Solar Impulse team. The plane uses the QNX Neutrino OS for several control and data communication functions.

Read my previous posts on this groundbreaking project and check out the Solar Impulse website.


Solar Impulse returns to the skies

Crew of QNX-equipped solar plane set to resume historic flight

Solar Impulse: powered only
by the sun  
Source: Solar Impulse
In case you missed it, Solar Impulse, the solar-powered airplane that is flying around the world to promote green energy, has returned to the skies.

The Solar Impulse team suffered a temporary setback last summer, when the plane’s batteries overheated during a five-day flight between Japan and Hawaii. Battery problems notwithstanding, the 120-hour trip set a world record for longest non-stop solo flight.

The team has since upgraded the plane with a newer (and cooler) battery system and has successfully completed three test flights. If all goes as planned, the plane will take off from Hawaii in mid-April for a four-day journey to the continental United States. Once the plane completes its U.S. crossing, it will fly non-stop across the Atlantic.

The plane’s round-the-world trek began on March 9, 2015, when it took off from an airport in Abu Dhabi. It then completed several hops, totaling 18000 kilometers, before landing in Kalaeloa on June 28.

Solar Impulse may be powered by the sun, but it can fly at night, using energy stored in its lithium-ion batteries — all 17250 of them. The plane is massive, with the wing span of a Boeing 747, yet weighs no more than a family car.

Solar Impulse bootup screen. Screen-grab from video.
QNX Software Systems is the official realtime OS partner for the Solar Impulse team. The plane uses the QNX Neutrino OS for several control and data communication functions.

I’ve been tracking the progress of the Solar Impulse project since 2009. Read my previous posts, which include a look at the plane’s virtual cockpit. And remember to check out the Solar Impulse website.