Swiss entrepreneur, pilot and co-founder of Solar Impulse, André Borschberg announced his new project and company, H55, a solar impulse technological spin off, with a motto to make air transport cleaner, quieter, safer and more affordable. Their hashtag #futureisclean defines their goals.
Fossil fuels are exhaustive. Fossil fuels are not clean and green. Fossil fuels need an alternative.
The Solar Impulse 2, a groundbreaking invention in the field of aviation, ran on solar electricity for five days and nights over the Pacific until it landed in Abu Dhabi last year, to complete the cycle of its charted journey.
The successful completion of the round-the-world trip triggered Borschberg to conceptualise his new project, H55, with a plan to take electric propulsion technology a step further. According to the official press release by H55, their electric demonstrator aircraft, aEro1, has successfully flown more than 50 hours with a battery endurance exceeding more than 1 hour. On the commercialisation and future prospects of electric propulsion, the entrepreneur commented “electric air transport will undoubtedly disrupt the aviation industry. 15 years ago, when I started with Solar Impulse, electric propulsion was anecdotal. Today is a major development path of every large aeronautical organisation as well as attracting many start-ups and new players. What is science fiction today will be the reality of tomorrow.” Borschberg also tweeted:
André Borschberg, founder and chairman of the board, Sebastien Demont, former Head of Electrical Engineering at Solar Impulse; Dominique Steffen, former Red Bull paraglider world champion and experienced Head of Engineering for large-scale projects at Kissling & Zbinden; Thomas Pfammatter, a professional airplane and helicopter pilot with over 10,000 flight hours, former CEO and CFO of Swiss companies, and founder of different start-ups; and Gregory Blatt, Managing Director for Marketing and External Relations at Solar Impulse.
Why Electric Propulsion?
According to an Indian-origin aviation engineer, “The future of electric propulsion is vast and experimental. If electric cars can be a reality today, why not electric aviation? The future is now; now is the time to go green and reduce our carbon footprints. Electric propulsion will be sustainable and cost-effective as producing the fuel (a green source) will be less costly than opting for traditional fuel. All that’s left to be seen now is the commercialisation of the same, as obtaining a license permit and certifications for a new prototype may prove to be nothing short of difficult.”
Was certification a problem with the Solar Impulse 2? If sources are to be believed, obtaining the certifications that allowed Borschberg and fellow pilot Bertrand Piccard to fly over populated areas en route its experimental journey proved to be a big obstacle.
However, Borschberg has other plans. H55 will focus more on developing and certifying electric propulsion systems, which others can integrate into their aircraft.
He stated, “The biggest advantage of electric propulsion is allowing for new designs. Electric powered drones which cost a few hundred dollars are more stable in turbulence and winds than an expensive helicopter.”
The future is here for sure.