Raphael Dinelli is a French scientist, former yachtsman, and now a pilot with his eyes on a world record. He’s determined to make history by completing the first zero-carbon trans-Atlantic flight this June with a lightweight hybrid plane powered by solar energy and biofuels. After four wins at the Vendée Globe round-the-world nonstop solo sailing race, Dinelli is determined to put his endurance to the test by flying a clean energy plane over the seas he once sailed.
The plane that will carry Dinelli for the journey is the Eraole. The aircraft has been in development since 2009, and has been carefully engineered to become the first plane capable of flying all the way across the Atlantic Ocean without using a lick of fossil fuels. Instead, it will be powered by a combination of solar energy and biofuels produced from microalgae, which was developed specifically for the Eraole. Wing-mounted solar panels will provide 25 percent of the plane’s power, while 55 percent will come from the algae-derived biofuels. For the remaining 20 percent of the time, the plane will simply glide on wind currents.
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Dinelli will be the sole passenger of the Eraole for the 60-hour flight across the Atlantic. He’ll have to endure all sorts of physical hardships, including lack of sleep and breathing 30 percent less oxygen than usual, since the plane will fly at around 10,000 feet elevation. Being stuck in the cramped cockpit for such a long period of time without the ability to stretch or move around will also be tough on the pilot, but he isn’t concerned thanks to a quarter century of experience with solo sailing trips.
The trans-Atlantic flight is planned for June 2016, although no specific take-off date has been set. The Eraole will take off from North America and head east to France months ahead of the ‘other’ zero-carbon aircraft making its way around the world, from west to east. Solar Impulse is currently expected to take off from Hawaii in April, with many planned stops in the U.S. on its way back to the starting point of its round-the-world journey – Abu Dhabi. This means Solar Impulse won’t cross the Atlantic until later in the year.
Images via Ocean Vital Laboratory