Bertrand Piccard, initiator of the Solar Impulse program calling for a flight around the world with an aircraft powered exclusively by solar energy, showcased the state of his venture in a media conference at the Duebendorf airfield near Zurich, Switzerland, on November 6.
With a budget of $100 million, Piccard has assembled a permanent staff of 50 specialists from various fields and received support from several high-profile companies since the project announcement in 2003.
Supporting companies include Dassault (Catia design program and design review), the Solvay Group from Belgium (composites), Deutsche Bank (finance) and the Swatch/Omega Group.
Scheduled for rollout next fall, the four-engine Solar Impulse is a basic aircraft with a 200-foot wingspan befitting an airliner. The single-seat non-pressurized cockpit has no heating and no air conditioning, but sufficient thermal insulation to keep excessive heat or cold away from the pilot. Designed to fly at a cruising altitude of up to 27,500 ft in sunlight and gradually descend to about 10,000 feet at night, the Solar Impulse will then climb back to 27,500 feet after sunrise during several 36-hour flight legs around the world at slow speed.