Solar plane lands at night on cross-country US trip

Updated 05 May 2013
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Solar plane lands at night on cross-country US trip

The first-ever manned airplane that can fly by day or night on solar power alone landed in the dark at a major southwestern US airport, a live feed from the organizer’s website showed early yesterday.
Solar Impulse, piloted by Swiss adventurer Bertrand Piccard, touched down at the Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, Arizona at 0730 GMT after departing from California more than 18 hours earlier on the first leg of a cross-country journey.
A ground crew met the plane as it landed and pushed it to a safe area where Solar Impulse co-founder Andre Borschberg, a Swiss engineer and ex-fighter pilot, climbed up to the cockpit on a ladder to greet Piccard, who raised his arms in triumph.
“I’m happy to be here, happy to have landed in Phoenix,” a visibly elated Piccard told reporters, as a small crowd assembled on the tarmac cheered his arrival.
Piccard said he was impressed by the scenery as he overflew the western United States, starting in San Francisco and heading south over California, then east over the Arizona desert and his nighttime approach to Phoenix. When he landed he said he still had three-quarters of his battery power left.
The US journey is being billed as the plane’s first cross-continent flight.
The plane, which has a slim body and four electric engines attached to an enormous wingspan, flew quietly at an average speed of about 49 kms per hour. Energy provided by 12,000 solar cells powered the plane’s propellers.
The project aims to showcase what can be accomplished without fossil fuels, and has set its “ultimate goal” as an around-the-world flight in 2015.
The plane can fly at night by reaching a high elevation of 8,230 meters and then gently gliding downward, using almost no power through the night until the sun comes up to begin recharging the aircraft’s solar cells.
The US itinerary allows for up to 10 days at each stop in order to showcase the plane’s technology to the public. Other stops are planned for Dallas, Texas, and the US capital Washington, before wrapping up in New York in early July.
That will allow Piccard and Borschberg to share duties and rest between flights.
A dashboard showing the live speed, direction, battery status, solar generator and engine power, along with cockpit cameras of both Piccard and his view from the plane, were online at live.solarimpulse.com.
The aircraft completed its first intercontinental journey from Europe to Africa in June on a jaunt from Madrid to Rabat.
Longer trips have already been successfully completed by the plane, which made the world’s first solar 26-hour day and night trip in 2010.
However, the cockpit has room for just one pilot, so even though the plane could likely make the entire US journey in three days, Piccard decided it would be easier to rest and exchange flight control with Borschberg at the stops.
Solar Impulse was launched in 2003.
The slim plane is particularly sensitive to turbulence and has no room for passengers, but Piccard has insisted that those issues are challenges to be met in the future, rather than setbacks.
“Instead of speaking of the problems, we want to demonstrate solutions,” Piccard said earlier as he was flying toward Phoenix, stressing that renewable technologies already exist and are well known to science.
“Now we need to put them on a big scale everywhere in our daily life.”
The well-funded effort includes a ground crew and logistics teams, a mission control team, and a state-of-the art communications and multimedia team with in-house “reporters” providing live coverage and interviewing the two pilots.
Sponsors include the Solvay Chemical Group, Omega watches and the Swiss elevator and escalator company, The Schindler Group.


Start-up of the Week: The app that restores work-life balance

Updated 19 June 2018
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Start-up of the Week: The app that restores work-life balance

  • MRSOOL helps consumers to transport goods from any store to their door
  • Since 2017 MRSOOL has had more than 80,000 couriers across the Kingdom, potentially earning the couriers an average SR 10,000 ($2,700) within two months.

JEDDAH: Too many errands, too little time? This is how MRSOOL co-founder Naif Al-Simri used to feel, so he decided to do something about it — and not just for himself.

Realizing that he was not managing to successfully juggle the demands of his job and his family, he started to think about how he could manage things better.

His thought processes eventually led him to develop MRSOOL, an app that helps consumers to transport goods from any store to their door. All consumers need to do is post their orders, and an MRSOOL courier will go to the store to pick up and deliver the desired items to them. 

“I used to work a lot and I was not at home. My family always needed something, but I could not do it for them because of work commitments. So I would suffer because I could not do their errands and also could not find a solution. The fact that I could not find a solution would upset my family,” he said. 

Thinking about the problem — and how it affected so many people in the modern world — triggered a lightbulb moment for Al-Simri. He came up with the idea of creating a platform that would deliver anything, without him having to leave the office and pick up his family. 

“If I had to run errands I would have to leave the office and take them (to the shops). That is like five trips, so I thought to myself what if I have someone who lives close by pick up what is needed on his way and make money by doing it,” he said. 

He started to outline his idea to some of his close friends who work in app development. He talked through whether they thought there was market demand for such a service and analyzed the challenges. As he threw around ideas with friends, he was starting to formulate a business plan. It was at this stage that he started to see the potential.

He discussed the concept with Ayman Al-Sanad (a friend?), and although Al-Sanad had come up against Al-Simri’s ideas before, and was cautious about practicalities, his future partner was impressed by the proposal. Nevertheless, Al-Sanad made some suggestions for tweaking the original idea. 

“I took Ayman’s feedback and went back to the drawing board. We were both working at the time so we would touch base on weekends to discuss our development and progress,” Al-Simri added.

The two future partners started working together to develop the application, which was eventually launched in 2015. Today MRSOOL serves the whole country and there are plans to expand to the GCC and Arab countries.

Not only is MRSOOL now ranked in the top 10 applications in the Kingdom, with a star rating of 4.8 out of 5, but it is even listed in the top 200 active applications by the US Apple store. 

Since 2017 MRSOOL has had more than 80,000 couriers across the Kingdom, potentially earning the couriers an average SR 10,000 ($2,700) within two months.