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Solar Impulse 2 in India: Meet Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg

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Solar Impulse 2 has landed in India. This was the headlines across major newspapers this morning. So what exactly is Solar Impulse 2? RushLane meets the Solar Impulse team in Ahmedabad to find out more.

Solar Impulse India 2015

Solar Impulse 2 landed at Sardar Vallabhai Patel International Airport in Ahmedabad on 11.25 pm. The aircraft, which started its journey from Abu Dhabi on Monday, made first pit stop at Muscat the same day. Tuesday morning, they left from Muscat for Ahmedabad in India. The spectacular landing at Ahmedabad airport was shown on YouTube via LIVE webcast. The recording can still be viewed below.

Solar Impulse India 2015

By landing in India, Solar Impulse 2 has successfully completed the first leg of its journey. Solar Impulse project is the brainchild of two Swiss nationals – Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg, who are also piloting the aircraft.

Solar Impulse India 2015

56 year old Piccard is a psychiatrist, explorer and a pilot. He is the first man to go around the world in a balloon, non stop. Founder and President of Solar Impulse project, he is the force behind attracting 80 global partners for one single goal. Piccard says that were the world to use technologies which are used in Si2, our planet’s energy consumption would be reduced by half. Though Si2 is not designed to carry passengers, it is still enough to send out the message of clean energy around the globe.

Solar Impulse India 2015

62 year old Borschberg is a businessman, engineer and a fighter pilot. He is the co-founder and CEO of Solar Impulse project. Borschberg is credited with gathering a team of 50 engineers, and range of partners from different fields, which have together managed to engineer the Solar Impulse 2 aircraft.

Solar Impulse India 2015

Helping them achieve their goal is Solvay, a chemical company from Brussels, Belgium and their partner since last 12 years. Together, they have managed to achieve what you see as Solar Impulse 2 today.

Solar Impulse India 2015

Solar Impulse 2 has 17,248 ultra efficient solar cells built into its wings. These cells transfer solar energy to four electric motors that inturn power the planes propellers. The solar cells also recharge four lithium polymer batteries. Weighing a total of 2,300 kgs Solar Impulse 2 is about the weight of a midsized truck or minivan while in comparison an empty Boeing 747 weighs around 180,000 kgs. It has a wingspan wider than that of a 747’s at 235 feet. Solar Impulse 2 travels at the rate of 50-100 kms per hour while speeds at night are kept lower so as to conserve battery power.

Solar Impulse India 2015

Solar Impulse 2 will remain in Ahmedabad for the next four days during which various events are being organized to draw attention to use of renewable energy and sustainable development. In Ahmedabad, the team is hosted by Aditya Birla Group. As part of the program, Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg will hold meetings with government officials, stakeholders and members of civil society during their stay.

Solar Impulse India 2015

Solar Impulse 2 will then proceed to make a short stop at Varanasi’s Lal Bahadur Shastri airport. While in the city, it is also likely to hover over the sacred river Ganga in Varanasi to spread the message of cleanliness and clean energy and will then set off on its fourth leg to Myanmar on March 16.

Solar Impulse India 2015

Solar Impulse 2 is being accompanied by two supporting aircrafts. INS-76 is carrying equipment for Solar Impulse 2 while ATR-72 has support staff on board. Piccard and fellow Swiss aviator Andre Borschberg will be manning the controls of the single seater aircraft in turn and the biggest challenge will be when the plane is over water as any loss of power could leave the pilot with no other recourse than to bail out. The longest leg will be when the plane flies non stop for five days and nights while crossing the Pacific Ocean from Nanjing, China to Hawaii, tackling a distance of 8,500 kms.

Solar Impulse India 2015

Both pilots have been trained extensively for this arduous feat. The pilots have been taught various techniques of yoga and self hypnosis which allows them to sleep only for limited periods of time but yet feel refreshed. At all times, the pilots will be linked to a control base in Monaco which is being manned by 65 weathermen and a host of air traffic controllers and engineers while a total of 65 ground staff are travelling alongside the plane.

Solar Impulse India 2015

From Myanmar, Solar Impulse 2 will head to China, Hawaii and New York and will then head back to starting point Abu Dhabi while it will depend on weather conditions as to whether the plane will fly back via southern Europe or North America.

Solar Impulse India 2015
Founders and pilots of Solar Impulse 2 Bertrand Piccard (Initiator and Chairman) and André Borschberg (CEO) celebrating the land with Mr. Tony Henshaw (Chief Sustainability Officer, Aditya Birla Group) and Mr. Rajiv Dube (Director, Aditya Birla Management Corporation) at Ahmedabad airport.

We wish the team good luck.

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