Billionaire Ex-Oilman Strategy 1st Nonstop World Solar Flight

After building up a $15 billion rich running petroleum, Viktor Vekselberg is turning to solar for his attempt to acquire a residence in history.

The Russian industrialist and his Renova Group plan a record-breaking effort to send a plane around the world nonstop using merely the influence of the sunlight. If all goes well, a single pilot will pilot for five days straight at altitudes of up to 10 miles, about a third higher than commercial airliners.

Viktor Vekselberg

Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/ Bloomberg

The project isn’t just a stunt. The glider-style airplane with a 36 -meter( 120 -foot) wingspan will be a test to new technologies that are set to be used to build new generations of autonomous skill for the military and business, say aerospace experts. They will run endlessly, have far greater reach and control than satellites and expand program, communication and agent abilities around the globe.

Previous endeavors have exploited multiple flights. Switzerland’s Solar Impulse, with collaborators including Google, Dassault Aviation SA and ABB Ltd ., became 17 stops to complete its globetrotting tour last year.

“Our flight should prove that it’s possible to prepare long-distance flights use solar energy, ” articulated Mikhail Lifshitz, Renova’s director of high-tech asset development and a qualified pilot-instructor. A “flying laboratory” test-plane will be ready by year-end, Lifshitz said in an interview.

Mikhail Lifshitz use a supercapacitor to start a T-6 2 tank.

Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/ Bloomberg

That returns his team two years before the record flight, which will be piloted by Fyodor Konyukhov, 65, an adventurer and ex-special forces soldier knew of Russia for sailing around the globe multiple times, traveling to the North and South Pole and twice scaling Everest. In April, Vekselberg committed to President vladimir putin to get the job done.

Renova’s plane will use so-called supercapacitors, effectively exceedingly efficient artilleries, to drive its propellers and accumulation superpower generated from solar panels organized on the top and underside of the plane. The panels will draw on both direct and disperse light-headed, allows them to suck in vigour directly from the sun and from rays indicated back up from the clouds.

Supercapacitor base cells at Renova’s Khimki lab.

Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/ Bloomberg

At night, the airplane will keep dominance by moving down from high altitudes before climbing again when the sunshine is up.

“This particular proposal is very timely because the technology is there, ” answered David Baker, a 25 -year veteran of NASA who now edits the British Interplanetary Society’s Spaceflight magazine. “It only necessitates the asset and fund to give it all together.”

Zeal for aerospace is originate among investors like Richard Branson, with his Virgin Galactica Ltd ., and fellow billionaire Elon Musk‘s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. as technical advanceds transform flights of thought into commercial hypothesis. Branson is himself famous for well-publicized stunts including attempts to span the globe in a balloon.

Vekselberg, who became Russia’s fourth-richest being though lubricant and metals, has expanded into tech since selling out of crude in 2012, with investments including a joint endeavour solar creator and supremacy creator. He’s invested in OC Oerlikon Corp ., which is involved in making solar-equipment produces. He’s also the chairperson of the Skolkovo Foundation, which is overseeing the creation of a tech centre near Moscow.

Self-powered and unmanned ship that can stay airborne for long periods are of much interest for business, countenancing mobile communications to go far beyond the reach of satellites at a lower costs, BIS’s Baker said.

“The military of course are interested in this for long-duration eavesdropping and telecoms, ” he answered. “There’s a lot of Hollywood myth about what satellites can do. You can’t immediately grab a satellite and steer it in to centring down for about six epoches to listen in to potential terrorists.”

Spies Like Us

While Renova isn’t disclosing its investment in the flight, its Hevel Solar seam speculation invested about 20 billion rubles ($ 355 million) on panel creation, with an upgrade at the end of 2016 adding 3.8 billion rubles.

It has invested about $30 million in its Khimki supercapacitor plant to make an annual 200,000 cells allows one to accumulate influence for diverse intents, Lifshitz added. It aims to expand to 6 million cells with a new plant.

Renova’s supercapacitor lab.

Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/ Bloomberg

The effort to send a pilot around the world by 2019 will provide a test bottom for such technologies and a target to encourage further innovation, as well as developing interest from the public and potential investors.

“People are interested in things committing people, ” Baker responded. “If this was some funny gizmo that was unmanned, it wouldn’t quite attract “members attention”. It’s the Branson factor.”

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