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Google joins Solar Impulse in zero-fuel flight across the world

Solar Impulse partners Google, making it the official internet technology partner that will provide the solar-powered airplane with web and social platforms to raise awareness for emissions-free travel

Solar Impulse SA and Google have signed a high-level partnership to propel clean energy aviation forward in 2015, when the Swiss-founded solar airplane makes a landmark pollution-free flight around the world.

Earlier in June and July, Solar Impulse accomplished a historic journey of flying across the United States in both day and night without the use of fuel.

It was during this Across America mission, which started in San Francisco and stopping in different cities until reaching New York, that Solar Impulse first started to collaborate with Google.

The internet firm generated public interest for the solar aircraft and the need for sustainable transport through the use of Google platforms, such as virtual chatroom Google Hangout, said the solar aviation firm. This livestream interaction featured film director James Cameron and Solar Impulse patron and Charles Lindbergh’s grandson, Erik Lindbergh, as guests, supplementing the company’s own online flight viewing and pilot interviews.

With the tools of Google, [they will] help us communicate our message much further to the political world, the university world, and the public

Betrand Piccard, Solar Impulse co-founder

This latest partnership, signed last week, will up the ante of solar-powered air travel. According to Solar Impulse, Google will serve as their official Internet Technology partner, providing an expanded use of the tech giant’s diverse range of online services.

Applications such as Google Earth, Google Glass, Google Hangouts, Google+ and YouTube will provide supporters with the necessary tools to follow each step of the 2015 adventure, said the firm.

Primary founders and pilots André Borschberg and Betrand Piccard, with the rest of the Solar Impulse team, are planning to circumnavigate the world in two years time. Currently, they are developing new materials and construction methods for a second solar airplane that draws on lessons learned from their US and earlier experimental flights.     

They said they are working with Belgian chemical company Solvay for a new kind of electrolytes that increase the energy density of batteries, as well as with Bayer MaterialScience, the materials development arm of Bayer Group, to use its nanotechnologies. Solar Impulse is also connecting with Swiss composite materials firm Décision to use lighter weight carbon fibres. 

Along with these technical enhancements, Solar Impulse is increasing its awareness reach with the Google team-up. Piccard said, “With the tools of Google, [they will] help us communicate our message much further to the political world, the university world, and the public.”

The new plane, including their pilot jackets, will bear a new sign:

This encapsulates their shared values of “pioneering spirit, innovation, engineering excellence and clean technologies to protect natural resources”, said Solar Impulse.

Aside from Solar Impulse and its campaign for renewable energy in transport, Google has also supported other clean energy projects like the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in the Mojave Desert in California, touted as the world’s largest solar thermal plant, and the Jasper Power Project in South Africa.

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