First round-the-world solar plane flight prepares for take-off

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By eeNews Europe

Three ABB engineers will accompany Solar Impulse and its crew on the plane’s flight around the world powered only by energy from the sun.  Solar Impulse plans to begin its historic flight between late February and early March in Abu Dhabi. In 2014, ABB and Solar Impulse formed an innovation and technology alliance to advance a shared vision of reducing resource consumption and increasing the use of renewable energy.

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

The ABB engineers will aim to improve control systems for ground operations, enhancing the charging electronics for the plane’s battery systems and resolving obstacles that emerge along the route.

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. The solar plane 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.

As the world’s second-largest supplier of solar inverters and one of the largest suppliers to the wind-power industry, ABB is a leader in integrating renewables efficiently and reliably into power grids.

Piccard said the addition of ABB, with its leading 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.

Since 2010, Piccard, the project’s chairman, and Borschberg, its chief executive officer, have combined to set eight international aviation records including 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.

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