Chatting with the pilot of the Solar Impulse 2 solar-powered airplaneCNET gets a close-up look at the first plane journeying around the Earth fueled only by the sun's energy. One of the pilots, André Borschberg, talks about what it's like to fly in a solar-powered aircraft just days before departing California.
[MUSIC] Hey guys, we're here at Moffet Field in Mountain View, California, checking out the Solar Impulse 2 solar-powered airplane. I'm here with pilot Andre Borschberg. He's been piloting this thing all over the world. So tell us about the plane. You guys have just landed from Hawaii. Tell us about your journey so far. We fly around the world with an airplane powered by solar energy only. And if you fly with the sun, you need an airplane which is extremely energy efficient to be able to fly through the night. And to make it efficient We had to build an airplane very big. It's bigger than the 747 with the weight of a car. This was the challenge. The aviation industry told us 13 years ago it was impossible. We decided to build it ourselves and that's the result. What are some of the challenges you guys have run into during your trip? So far. I understand that the batteries get overheated. What other kinds of challenges have you guys run into? Just to realize that it's an experimental airplane. So you are discovering what you are doing. When you board the airplane, you have to be ready for the unknown. We had surprises. I had major key components not functioning after departure. Engineers wanted me to come back. It was the first time that the weather window was improving over the Pacific Ocean, and I decided to continue. But big emotions, big turmoil in the [UNKNOWN], some people threatening to resign, but it was really difficult. But through phone calls [UNKNOWN] from 20,000 feet, we could agree that everybody was Keeping the [INAUDIBLE] of the project and make it feasible, and it happens to be successful afterwards. Every leg is a challenge because every leg you discover something else. The weather can be different. [INAUDIBLE], which is completely different to what has been designed, so it becomes a learning process. But so far, I think what we can say That the technology we have here, which is solar cells, which is electric models, which is batteries. We function in the same way that a grid functions from the ground. The commute is [INAUDIBLE]. We do exactly the same that what we do with this airplane. And these technologies are very reliable. So it's a demonstration here of what we can do on the ground in our world. In our cities, in our communities. Can you tell us a little bit about the battery technology that you're using in the planes. Battery we use are lithium [UNKNOWN] batteries, quite similar to what you have in computers. What you have in Tesla cars for example. I think we've pushed them a little bit further because weight is extremely important. We made them lighter, but at the end these are similar technologies that we can use on the [INAUDIBLE]. What is the top speed in the airplane at this point? The top speed is modest, it's about 40 to 50 miles, but the big advantage is that you don't have to go down to refuel. I just realized we are at the time of the pioneers. When the Wright brothers or Charles Lindbergh flew, they were alone, they flew slowly. And if you realize that from the first flight of the Wright brothers, it took 66 years to go on the moon. This was the trigger moment to make the further development happening. So this is the first step in the direction of electric aviation, or for potentially, maybe, "green" aviation, using less or no CO2, so it will take time to see this in transportation, but you need a first step. [MUSIC]