Solar Impulse's Social Innovation Project to Change the Landscape of Aviation

Dec 7, 2011 11:01 AM ET
Campaign: CSR Blogs

Posted by Sangeeta Haindl

The Solar Impulse project is currently writing the history pages of tomorrow with its social innovation commitment to fly day and night without fuel, powered only by solar energy. It has taken seven years of research, simulation, construction and tests to achieve the first solar twenty-four hour flight in history, one that demonstrates progress is possible by using clean energy. In July 2010, the HB-SIA became the first solar-powered airplane in history capable of flying through a complete daylight cycle, establishing three world records. This social innovation aeroplane has the wingspan of an Airbus A340: 63.40m; the weight of a family car, 1600 kg; and finally, the power of a scooter: four 10 HP electric engines.

The Solar Impulse's HB-SIA prototype presents social innovation construction features at its best, along with an aerodynamic quality never seen till now. The elements of this aircraftincluding the carbon fibre structure, the propulsion chain and flight instrumentation have all been designed to save energy as well as to resist the hostile conditions facing the aircraft and pilots at high altitudes.

The two men behind the Solar Impulse initiative are both pioneers, innovators and of course pilots! They are the driving force. Let me introduce you to Bertrand Piccard and Andr Borschberg. Piccard is a psychiatrist and aeronaut who made the first non-stop round-the-world balloon flight. He is the initiator and chairman. Borschberg is an engineer, fighter, professional airplane and helicopter pilot. He is the CEO of this organisation. Together their social innovation vision and entrepreneurial spirit are an ideal combination. They work with a large, talented team comprised of mechanical and aeronautical engineers; physicists; specialists in structures, aerodynamics, design and calculating tools; leading specialists in composite materials; and pilots with a passion for renewable energy. They have all joined forces to finalise the solar airplane's structure and turn a dream into reality.

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Sangeeta Haindl is a staff writer for Justmeans on Social Enterprise. When not writing for Justmeans, Sangeeta wears her other hat as a PR professional. Over the years, she has worked with high-profile organizations within the public, not-for-profit and corporate sectors; and won awards from her industry. She now runs her own UK consultancy: Serendipity PR & Media.