News detail

26 June 2009



Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg today unveiled, at Dübendorf airfield close to Zurich, the Solar Impulse HB-SIA, the first aircraft designed to fly both day and night without fossil fuel or pollution. The presentation of the prototype took place in front of more than 800 persons, including 200 representatives of the international media, and many high-ranking guests among them H.S.H. Albert II of Monaco, the Swiss Minister of Energy and Environment, the CEOs of Solvay, Omega and Deutsche Bank and the CEO of the International Air Transport Association (IATA). The press conference was also relayed live on Internet and was followed by journalists all around the world. 60 media representatives gathered in Beijing and followed the conference in front of giant screen, in simultaneous translation for the occasion.

A revolutionary airplane


Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg first retraced the history of the project since it was launched in 2003. 6 years of intense work, calculations, simulations and tests were needed by the 70-person team to complete this totally unprecedented aircraft: with the wingspan of a Boeing 747-400 and the weight of an average family car (1600 kg), never has such a large craft been built with such low weight. Over 12,000 solar cells mounted onto the wing will supply renewable energy to the four electric motors with a maximum power of 10 HP each. During the day they will also charge the lithium-polymer batteries (400 kg), which will permit the HB-SIA to fly through the night.


The HB-SIA is the first prototype of the Solar Impulse project. Its mission is to demonstrate the feasibility of a complete day-night-day cycle propelled solely by solar energy. After fine-tuning on the ground, the aircraft should make its first test flights between now and the end of 2009, first of all at Dübendorf airport (canton of Zurich) and then from Payerne air base (canton of Vaud). A first complete night flight is programmed for 2010 and will take place over Switzerland.


The results from the HB-SIA and their analysis will serve to develop and build a second aircraft, the HB-SIB for circumnavigating the word in five stages, each lasting several days, in 2012.


A supporters program


In response to demands from many enthusiasts, Solar Impulse announced today a program specially reserved for people wanting to participate in the adventure and to express their support of the project’s philosophy. Supporters can enroll on to receive news in real time, to adopt a solar cell on the wing, reserve a VIP visit at the Solar Impulse base, or place their names on the aircraft's fuselage.


A symbol for promoting renewable energies


In a world dominated by fossil fuels, and given the urgent need to find sustainable solutions, the Solar Impulse project sets out to demonstrate the potential of renewable energies and to promote their use. It is also a symbol of the energy savings that can be accomplished using new technologies. The pioneering spirit which enabled man to conquer the planet and space in the 20th century should today allow us to find solutions to reduce our dependence on oil, not by reducing mobility and personal comfort, but by creating dreams, hope and enthusiasm.



Today they said:


Bertrand Piccard, initiator of the project


“If an aircraft is able to fly day and night without fuel, propelled solely by solar energy, let no one come and

claim that it is impossible to do the same thing for motor vehicles, heating and air conditioning systems and

computers. Through this project we are proclaiming our conviction that a pioneering spirit and political

vision can together change society and put an end to fossil fuel dependency.”


André Borschberg, co-founder of the projet


“Meeting a challenge of this magnitude is possible only by taking maximum advantage of solar energy.

Every watt counts, and we are looking to track down every form of energy-saving. Only the most advanced

solutions, most of them never applied before, will permit this. It is by combining the experience and

summing the potential of every team member that we believe we have found them.”


Patrick Aebischer, President de l’EPFL


The Solar Impulse-EPFL partnership brings together a diversity of scientists and engineers from around the

world. From energy optimisation to the man-machine interface, the scientists have had to learn to put their

various areas of expertise, often diametrically opposed, to work towards a common ambition, in the service

of a shared dream. These synergies have an undeniable accelerating effect on the development of science

and technology.


Christian Jourquin, CEO of Solvay,


Chairman of the Executive Committee

To us as a chemicals and pharmaceuticals manufacturer, Solar Impuse reflected, right from the

beginning, the fundamental elements of the formidable human challenge facing us. I have quoted

Sustainable Development in its many aspects, and we were firmly convinced that our businesses could

come up with solutions to the challenges.


Stephen Urquhart, President of Omega


“The pioneering spirit that is so inherent at OMEGA led us to participate in many great achievements, the

most notable being man’s landing on the moon 40 years ago. Our involvement in the Solar Impulse project

is therefore a natural continuation for our brand and this project will hopefully play an active role in man’s

need for sustainable energy sources in the future.”


Dr Josef Ackermann, Chairman of the Management Board and the Executive Committee of the

Deutsche Bank Group


“Solar Impulse is an outstanding symbol because it shows what people with an innovative, entrepreneurial

spirit are capable of achieving together. This is why Deutsche Bank is a partner of this project. Moreover,

we consider fighting climate change as part of our social responsibility, but we also see great business

opportunities. Already today we are both leaders in the field of investments in renewable energies and a

leading asset manager for sustainability-oriented products.”


Giovanni Bisignani, Director General and CEO, IATA


"Solar Impulse and IATA share the same vision. We are natural partners. Both our companies want a

future without carbon emissions in air transport. The Solar Impulse initiative is the proof that anything is

possible: thanks to our vision, even flights without fuel can exist."


Moritz Leuenberger, Member of the Swiss Federal Council, Head of the Federal Department of

Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications (DETEC)


"Those are the wings of hope. They are immense, as is the challenge we have to meet in climate



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