Solar Impulse 2, the solar-powered plane piloted by André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard, is ready to continue its revolutionary voyage around the world. After the craft was grounded in Hawaii last July due to overheated batteries, it was repaired and upgraded, and a recent initial test flight proved successful.
While pilot André Borschberg was flying from Japan to Hawaii, the plane’s batteries overheated. The Solar Impulse 2 team knew about the problem in the air, but it wasn’t possible to fix the issue in-flight. The Hawaii repairs included improved cooling and stabilization systems.
The new battery system is similar to the old, except with a greater emphasis on cooling. The battery containers have a new backup system in place which will allow the pilots to manually control the temperature via an air inlet to ensure the battery won’t overheat or freeze. In addition, the motor gondolas received upgrades for cooling – an air vent and electronics.
Pilot Markus Scherdel flew the upgraded craft in an hour and a half test flight, and Solar Impulse 2 reached an altitude of 8,000 feet without incident. The upgrades were tested during the trip and all functioned as intended.
“Bertrand Piccard was following this long-awaited flight from the other side of the world and confessed that it was a true relief to see Si2 back in the Hawaiian sky after the past months of uncertainty,” the team said in a blog post announcing the success of the test flight.
In the post the team thanked the University of Hawaii and the Department of Transportation at Kalaeloa airport, which has hosted the plane during its stay on the islands.
The pilots say they plan to take off in April for the next leg of their journey, a 100-hour flight to Phoenix. Solar Impulse 2 will then make a few stops around the United States, cross the Atlantic Ocean, and return to Abu Dhabi, where it began its historic quest last March.
Via Aviation Week