Actively involved in the Solar Impulse project since 2003, Altran, global leader in innovation and high-tech engineering consulting, now accompanies the solar plane in its first trans-Mediterranean flight from Spain to Morocco.
The aim of the Solar Impulse project is to continually go beyond the threshold and draw attention to the immense potential of renewable energies. For more than a decade, Altran's team of experts has been striving to meet this challenge and transform this dream into a reality.
After the first day and night fuel-free flight in 2010 and the first European flight in 2011, the solar plane is now preparing for a 2,500 km, round trip voyage between Switzerland and Morocco. Carried out in several stages, this exclusively solar-powered flight will bring Solar Impulse closer to reaching its goal of achieving the world tour planned in 2014. The plane's mission in 2012 is therefore essential for testing and improving the organisation of future flights.
Carrying out a successful solar flight is extremely complex and raises three types of challenges for the teams involved, namely:
- Technical challenges, since the teams must be able to manage a series of consecutive flights sometimes exceeding 20 hours, as well as the plane's entry into multiple air-traffic control zones.
- Meteorological challenges, because the plane will be required to fly through complex zones, such as the Pyrenees mountain range and making its first-ever trans-Mediterranean crossing.
- Logistical and operational challenges, requiring the monitoring of the plane for around two months. This will be carried out by a mobile on-the-ground logistics team which will follow the plane’s flight path with support provided by a Mission Control Centre (MCC) based in Payerne, Switzerland.
Within the MCC, two of Altran's experts, Christophe Béesau and Stéphane Yong, are playing a key role to assure the success of the mission. Throughout the flight, their expertise will be called upon to determine the choice of flight path based on a set of complex criteria such as weather conditions and air-traffic control, as well as energy and pilot management. To ensure that the team is ready for all eventualities, Christophe and Stéphane have designed a simulator that recalculates the different possible flight paths at regular intervals. This is a crucial challenge as the solar plane prepares for its first-ever trans-Mediterranean flight.