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The Solar Impulse 2 Flight Simulator

by John M. White |

Radiation from the sun is used to charge photovoltaic panels which in turn charge batteries which in turn power electric motors to turn propellors and power an aircraft to fly. Two adventurers, Andre Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard, are attempting to fly around the world in a solar powered aircraft called the Solar Impulse 2.

Solar Impulse 2

The Solar Impulse 2Swiss explorers Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg are the founders, pilots and driving force behind Solar Impulse, the first airplane of perpetual endurance, able to fly day and night without a drop of fuel. By attempting the first Round the World Solar Flight, they want to demonstrate that clean technologies and renewable energies can achieve the impossible. For the Solar Impulse team, pioneering spirit and innovation can change the world. The Round-The-World flight started from Abu Dhabi, on March 9. The route includes stop-overs in Oman, India, Myanmar and China. After trying to cross the Pacific Ocean via Hawaii, Si2 should fly across the U.S.A. and over the Atlantic Ocean, heading back to Abu Dhabi.

Solar Impulse 2 Flight Simulator

To highlight and promote this incredible flight Sandro Buss, PhD of the Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, along with computer science students in Switzerland, have created an internet game after 3 years of effort. This internet game allows anyone to challenge the Solar Impulse 2 to a race by piloting the Solar Impulse 2 flight simulator to see who can arrive at the destination first.

SolarTakeoff Game

The game can be found at where you can learn more about this challenge. The goal of the two types of games is to arrive at the destination first using the latest weather forecasts in real time. Winds must be mastered at various different altitudes, the sun located to charge the batteries, and weather monitored at all times. All you need is an internet connection and a computer to participate!

High Resolution Meterology

For the historical races, Solar Takeoff makes use of the National Center for Environmental Prediction analysis and its latest forecast for the real-time simulations. These forecasts are available every three hours and the predictions are updated four times a day. Simultaneously the three wind components and the temperature field (to calculate air’s density, e.g.) are first interpolated from pressure for as many as twenty flight levels, covering the vertical range from the surface to the maximum flight altitude. Furthermore, the cloud-cover on three vertical layers is used for a detailed calculation of the solar radiation falling on the photovoltaic panels covering the airplane. A module then distributes this energy – the fuel for solar devices – to the four propellers or to charge the batteries.

Simple Aeronautics

Several assumptions were made resulting in simplified aircraft flight controls, namely the three commands for horizontal and vertical motion, as well as controlling the power to the motors. The model airplane may change its horizontal direction with no restrictions or “banking”. The amount of data is impressive giving the visualization tens of millions of data points. It is one thing to compute the aircraft's trajectory and it's battery capacity with that data, but it is a different challenge to visualize them in a comprhensive manner. This is what makes flying this solar powered aircraft such a challenge.

Aviator Sunglasses Are Important

Solar Impulse 2 SelfieAs seen in the Solar Impulse 2 selfie, aviator sunglasses are a very important part of the pilot's flight kit. Aviator sunglasses are very important to protect the pilot's eyes from solar radiation (ultraviolet radiation) which increases in strength with altitude. No matter what your outdoor activity, be it driving, flying or simply enjoying the outdoors, protecting your most valuable sensory asset - your eyes - is very important. Too much exposure to UV radiation can sunburn your eyes, cause eye irritation and even contribute to eye diseases. Recent research has linked cataracts to excessive exposure to ultraviolet radiation.

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by John White

John White a/k/a JetAviator7 is an ATP pilot with an MBA in business who enjoys all things aviation and as an online entrepreneur loves providing exceptional products combined with exceptional personal service. Find out more about John on Google+