Inmarsat helps support Solar Impulse 2 mission

As the Solar Impulse 2 electrically-powered aircraft attempts the world’s first round-the-world solar flight, Inmarsat’s satellite connectivity will be providing crucial operational support.

After 12 years of research, Solar Impulse 2 took off from Abu Dhabi, UAE on 9 March powered only by the sun and technologies of the future. The mission aims to demonstrate that alternative energy and new technologies can achieve what many say is impossible, as well as inspire exploration and innovation in others. 

Inmarsat partner SITA OnAir will be providing the aircraft with satellite connectivity for pilot voice and data communications, as well as operational applications such as live weather updates and real-time aircraft monitoring.

Customised terminal

In addition, Inmarsat partner Cobham SATCOM has developed an extremely light, customised Cobham SATCOM AVIATOR 300SP (Special Purpose) system for the aircraft.

This will enable access to the data and voice connectivity via Inmarsat’s SwiftBroadband service and the transfer of video, telephone and aircraft telemetry to the Solar Impulse mission control centre.

A global audience of aviation fans will be able to experience the adventures of the mission in real-time via video stream and messaging across the Solar Impulse 2 social media channels, thanks to Inmarsat’s connectivity.

Communications solution

The Solar Impulse team’s official national partner Swisscom spent a year developing the communications solution, resulting in a light system that uses as little power as possible, while providing uninterrupted connectivity.

“Solar Impulse is driving the next generation of aviation technology. This shows that innovations are already filtering through to commercial aviation. It is absolutely clear that nose-to-tail connectivity is a reality,” said Ian Dawkins, CEO of SITA OnAir.

Johan Gericke, Director Systems Engineering, Cobham SATCOM, said: “The SATCOM AVIATOR 300SP system is the lightest SwiftBroadband satcom terminal by a large margin and was specifically developed for Solar Impulse to meet the prime weight criterium.”

Solar Impulse 2 has a wingspan of 72m, which is wider than a 747 jumbo jet, and weighs just 2.3 tonnes. It is set to return to Abu Dhabi by late July or early August 2015, having flown day and night on solar fuel. The route includes stops in Muscat, Oman; Ahmedabad and Varanasi, India; Mandalay, Myanmar; and Chongqing and Nanjing, China.