The Solar Impulse 2, the first solar airplane theoretically capable of flying day and night without using any additional fuel, is due to resume its attempt at a round-the-world flight.
The aircraft was forcibly grounded in Hawaii last July halfway through its first attempt after its batteries suffered irreparable damage mid-flight.
However, Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, founders of the Solar Impulse 2 project, have said it is now ready to resume its attempt at the marathon journey.
The aircraft’s overheated batteries have been replaced and it has begun running maintenance flights, with the team now looking for a favourable weather window in which it can complete the feat.
Last year’s flight saw significant success with the aircraft achieving a record breaking flight of five days and nights (117 hours and 52 minutes).
“As we experienced many times with Solar Impulse, obstacles often turn out to be opportunities for improvement,” explained André Borschberg. “Ultimately, this time was used to recreate the strong mindset within the team to continue our adventure. It takes sometimes more time to build up the right spirit than to develop new technologies.”
Since its unanticipated Hawaii landing, Solar Impulse 2 was sheltered in Kalaeloa airport, with support from the University of Hawaii, the Honolulu Community College and the Department of Transportation.
Between late February and mid-April 2016, the aircraft accomplished a total of 13 flights. Maintenance flights, carried out by Solar Impulse¹s test pilot, confirmed the good performance of the aircraft and proper functioning of the newly integrated cooling system, installed to safeguard the batteries from the temperature-related glitches which resulted in its previous failure.
These were followed by a series of training flights completed by both pilots, Borschberg and Piccard, that included a high-altitude flight, in order to prepare for the remainder of the Pacific crossing.
“An airplane with perpetual flight endurance, without fuel, like the Solar Impulse is not only a first in the history of aviation, but also in the history of energy,” said Piccard.
“The primary purpose of this adventure is to demonstrate that modern clean technologies can achieve the impossible and encourage everyone to use these same energy efficient solutions on the ground in their daily lives for mobility, construction, lighting, heating, cooling and more.”
The final landing place for the mission will be chosen a couple of days before departure depending on the weather conditions, but a date for take-off has not yet been finalised.