A Flight around the World

Solar Impulse, an organization based in Switzerland, is planning a flight around the world with its entirely solar powered plane. ABB and Solar Impulse have formed an innovation and technology alliance ahead of the plane’s journey.

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Solar Impulse, an organization based in Switzerland, is planning a flight around the world with its entirely solar powered plane. ABB and Solar Impulse have formed an innovation and technology alliance ahead of the plane’s journey to advance a shared vision of reducing resource consumption and increase the use of renewable energy.

“Solar Impulse will inspire a new generation to embrace innovation and technology to solve the planet’s biggest challenges,” says ABB Chief Executive Officer Ulrich Spiesshofer. “ABB will be with the Solar Impulse team every mile of its journey.”

Three ABB engineers have joined the Solar Impulse team. Their work includes improving control systems for ground operations, enhancing the charging electronics for the plane’s battery systems, and resolving obstacles that emerge along the route.

The flight is scheduled to begin in late February or early march in Abu Dhabi. On the plane’s 40,000-kilometer route, pilots Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg will share duties as the aircraft stops in cities including Muscat, Oman; Varanasi and Ahmedabad in India; Chongqing and Nanjing in China; and Phoenix, Arizona in the U.S. It will also stop in Europe or North Africa.

Among challenges before the mission concludes in Abu Dhabi in mid-2015 will be a non-stop flight of five days and nights from China to Hawaii. The plane, powered by 17,248 solar cells, will soar higher than Mount Everest each day, while fully charging its batteries to stay aloft during the night.

Mr. Piccard says the addition of ABB, with its technologies that enable energy generation from renewable projects as well as boost efficiency, to Solar Impulse’s team have reinforced the endeavor’s ability to demonstrate the power of innovation and clean technology.

“This is what the world needs,” says Mr. Piccard, the Swiss aviation pioneer who was part of the first team to circle the earth in a balloon in 1999. “Otherwise, we’re going to waste all our natural resources.”

Since 2010, Mr. Piccard, the project’s chairman, and Mr. Borschberg, its chief executive officer, have combined to set eight international aviation records including those for duration, altitude and distance flown as they crossed Europe, North Africa and the United States in a prototype plane powered only by the sun.

ABB salutes and shares this vision as the journey’s next step kindles new interest in aeronautics, clean technology and renewable energy. “Together, we need to run the world without consuming the earth,” ABB’s Mr. Spiesshofer said. “In very simple terms, that’s what we stand for.”