All through the night. When the Solar Impulse prototype airplane touched down at the airfield in Payerne, Switzerland on the morning of July 8th, 2010, it had already made history, having flown all night long powered only by the energy collected in its solar cells the day before. That morning, the sun, which played such a key role, rose on a new era in aviation.
Stephen Urquhart, president of OMEGA, spoke enthusiastically about the critical phase in the mission. “With this first night flight the Solar Impulse project has reached an important milestone. It's clear that the ground-breaking technology is working perfectly. It is also a significant step which will convince many people that the ambitious aim of circling the globe in an airplane, flying day and night and powered only by the sun, will be a reality in the near future. It's an exciting time and OMEGA is proud to be part of this adventure.”
Solar Impulse has an ambitious goal: the project aims to circle the globe powered entirely by solar energy. It will prove convincingly that there are viable sustainable energy sources which will allow us to reduce our dependency on non-renewable fossil fuels.
OMEGA and Solar Impulse
OMEGA is proud of the contributions it has made to this pioneering adventure and congratulates its Solar Impulse partners for this important next step.
OMEGA’s participation has involved capital and technological support. In 2007, the company developed a performance simulation and testing system (test bench) which enabled the SI development team to simulate the airplane’s electrical systems. The project also benefits from the OMEGA instrument, an easy-to-read device which displays important parameters to assist the pilot during landing. It was developed by astronaut and Swatch Group Board Member Claude Nicollier. OMEGA’s engineers have been able to transfer knowledge of hybrid propulsion systems gained through the development of the Swatchmobile in the 1990s.
An ultra-lightweight landing light system
Most recently, OMEGA’s specialists contributed a powerful landing light system for the Solar Impulse prototype. They were given an interesting challenge: the Solar Impulse project team said that the entire landing light system could not weigh more than 2 kg!
The OMEGA team managed to create a system which delivers an astonishing watts per weight ratio. On each wing is a set of LED landing lights whose brightness is amplified by a correlation lens. Additional sets of “promotional” lights are positioned along each wing. The lights are all protected by very strong windows which are made from the same resilient plastic used in Swatch watches. Altogether, the landing and promotional lights, their windows, the power transformer and connectors and the wiring weigh about 1.998 kilograms.
As a result, the Solar Impulse’s runway is illuminated, the pilot’s safety is enhanced and the promotional lights create an impressive aesthetic effect – all in a package weighing less than two kilograms.
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