The Engineer Q&A: Solar Impulse

Your chance to put questions to the team behind the aircraft that will make the world’s first round-the-world journey using only solar power.


Next year will see the culmination of one of the most impressive feats of engineering so far this century: the first attempt to fly all the way around the world (in stages) in an entirely solar-powered aircraft.

Solar Impulse 2, which was unveiled to the world last month, is 2.3-tonne carbon-fibre aircraft with that uses over 17,000 solar cells and four brushless electric motors to fly at speeds of up to 140kph (87mph).

Four batteries enable the craft, which has a wingspan of 72m, to simultaneously fly and store power during the day so it can keep flying at night.

This will allow its solo pilot to complete journeys of up to five consecutive days at a time and complete the stages of the voyage that will take it over the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

For our latest reader Q&A article, we’ve lined up the team at Solar Impulse, which is led by engineer André Borschberg and psychiatrist Bertrand Piccard, to answer your questions on the challenges involved in designing and building the craft – and what’s in store for the pair when they take to the skies to pilot it.

We’d also like to invite questions about how the technology developed for solar impulse might find uses elsewhere, in the aerospace, energy or any other sector of engineering, and we’ll have relevant experts give their views in response.

Questions are now closed. We’ll publish the answers in the June issue of The Engineer magazine, as well as here on the website.