08 July 2016: A solar-powered plane is close to reaching the end of a record-breaking round-the-world flight.
Solar Impulse 2 is set to become the first aircraft to fly 35,000km around the world without fuel. Pilots Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg are using the challenge to demonstrate the potential of renewable energy and eco-friendly technologies.
Their journey started in Abu Dhabi in March 2015, and is due to end in the United Arab Emirates later this month. Along the way, they have been able to stay in touch with their mission control centre and download critical data thanks to aviation solutions provider SITAONAIR, who have equipped the flight with Inmarsat SwiftBroadband.
The latest leg of the trip was an historic non-stop Atlantic crossing that took Bertrand Piccard 71 hours. The 2.3 tonne single-seater plane was powered solely by the energy generated by 17,000 solar panels covering its wings, which have a greater span than a Boeing 747’s.
As a Specialised Partner, working closely with Swisscom, SITAONAIR has provided Solar Impulse 2 with SwiftBroadband technology for real-time pilot voice and data communications, and a specially-designed ground infrastructure to assure global air-to-ground communications for the aircraft whenever and wherever it flies.
The satellite connectivity also allows the challenge team, headquartered in Monaco, to track the aircraft, and gives the pilot access to real-time weather updates. It has also allowed them to share their accomplishments around the world, via a video stream, blogs and social media updates.
Around 1,000 sensors on the aircraft send a constant stream of data back to the mission control centre during the flight – including power, temperature information and performance data covering every piece of equipment.
Ahead of the first-ever flight across the Atlantic by a solar-powered plane, Bertrand blogged: “I want to pave the way to a widespread use of modern clean technologies. This is what I have been dedicating my life to for 15 years and this mythical ocean may well allow me to do it.”
Find out more about Solar Impulse 2 by visiting the SITAONAIR website