Solar Impulse: The Connected Aircraft Becomes Reality


  • SITA OnAir provides nose-to-tail connectivity

Geneva, Switzerland | March 9, 2015– Solar Impulse 2 HB-SIB, which has just started on its round-the-world flight from Abu Dhabi this morning, is the world’s first aircraft with full nose-to-tail connectivity.

“Solar Impulse is driving the next generation of aviation technology”

HB-SIB uses SITA OnAir satellite connectivity for pilot voice and data communications, as well as operational applications such as live weather updates and real-time aircraft monitoring. Thousands of sensors on the aircraft send a constant stream of data during the flight, including power and resistance information, and performance data covering every piece of equipment. The system also allows the public to experience the flights real-time via the video stream and messaging on social networks.

“This aircraft is pushing the boundaries of technology in many ways,” said Bertrand Piccard, Chairman of Solar Impulse. “The batteries are based on new brand-new electrolytes that allow the energy density to be increased. We are using carbon fiber that is lighter than any previously seen. And thanks to SITA OnAir connectivity, we are able to monitor every aspect of the plane at all times.”

SITA OnAir provides Solar Impulse HB-SIB with Inmarsat SwiftBroadband-based satellite technology. The related airborne and ground infrastructure has been designed specifically for the aircraft by Solar Impulse’s Official National Partner, Swisscom. The combination of the two means HB-SIB has reliable and consistent communications whenever and wherever it flies.

Swisscom engineers spent a year devising the communications solution. The airborne element is very light and is designed to use as little power as possible, while providing uninterrupted connectivity.

In parallel, the design and building of HB-SIB has required the optimization of new kinds of technology and a drastic reduction in energy consumption. Solar Impulse’s 80 engineers and technicians, led by André Borschberg, have had to apply highly innovative solutions. It is an airborne technology lab.

“Solar Impulse is driving the next generation of aviation technology”, said Ian Dawkins, CEO of SITA OnAir. “It is a great accolade to SITA OnAir to be involved. This shows that innovations are already filtering through to commercial aviation. It is absolutely clear that nose-to-tail connectivity is a reality.”

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