Solar Impulse is a Swiss long-range solar powered aircraft project being undertaken at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. The project eventually hopes to achieve the first circumnavigation of the Earth by a piloted fixed-wing aircraft using only solar power. The project is led by Swiss psychiatrist and aeronaut Bertrand Piccard, who co-piloted the first balloon to circle the world non-stop, and Swiss businessman André Borschberg.
The first aircraft, bearing the Swiss aircraft registration code of HB-SIA, is a single-seater monoplane, capable of taking off under its own power, and intended to remain airborne up to 36 hours.
This aircraft first flew an entire diurnal solar cycle, including nearly nine hours of night flying, in a 26-hour flight on 7–8 July 2010. In 2012, Piccard and Borschberg conducted successful solar flights from Switzerland to Spain and Morocco, and in 2013 within the USA.
Building on the experience of this prototype, a slightly larger follow-on design (HB-SIB) is planned to make a circumnavigation of the globe in 20–25 days. This flight was initially planned for 2014, but following a structural failure of the aircraft's main spar during static testing, a more likely date is 2015.
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—Ralph Waldo Emerson (18031882)