Rockwell Collins supports Solar Impulse—the first global solar powered flight attempt

Copyright: Solar Impulse | Stefatou | (Click for larger version)

When most people think about solar energy, they typically don’t think about aviation—but that may soon change.  As part of a historic undertaking Solar Impulse, the first solar powered aircraft able to fly both day and night, is attempting to fly around the world without the use of fossil fuel.

The flight is part of an ambitious mission to demonstrate the importance of clean technologies that decrease our dependence on fossil fuels, reduce global pollution and protect our planet’s natural resources.

Solar Impulse took off from Abu Dhabi on March 9th and will return by late July or early August.  The route includes stops in Oman, India, Myanmar and China. After crossing the Pacific Ocean via Hawaii, Solar Impulse will fly across the continental United States. After crossing the Atlantic, the final legs include a stop-over in Southern Europe or North Africa before arriving back in Abu Dhabi.

Rockwell Collins is the oceanic voice and data link communications provider to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). To support the flight, Rockwell Collins will be providing its ARINC GLOBALink voice services and position reporting for Solar Impulse. Our Oakland (San Francisco) and NY Radio Centers will relay position reports provided by the Solar Impulse mission control center to the FAA’s Oceanic Centers. 

“The support we’re providing for Solar Impulse is part of our Aeronautical Mobile Communications Service contract with the FAA, which has been in place for more than 60 years,” said Ron McGowan, senior program manager with IMS’ Aviation Voice Services team in Annapolis.

Rockwell Collins is the only agency set up to deliver transcribed air-to-ground voice messages directly to the FAA’s Advanced Technologies and Oceanic Procedures (ATOP) platform. “We will work directly with Abu Dhabi to relay position reports to the FAA when the Solar Impulse flight is in FAA airspace, which should be in early April,” notes McGowan.

Keeping the FAA apprised of the aircraft’s position is crucial. “Solar Impulse is essentially a glider that is keeping its forward motion through solar power,” said McGowan. “A cross wind or weather could push it off its flight path, so the FAA needs to know exactly where it is to route larger, faster planes around it.”

Rockwell Collins will also be able to provide emergency communications as the aircraft travels across the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.  These flights will be rigorous and will require Solar Impulse to fly non-stop for several days at a time. “We will deliver other messages as required by the mission should the need arise, and we will have the means to contact the aircraft directly in the event of an emergency,” notes McGowan.

“We’re excited to play a role in supporting this historic journey,” said McGowan. “This flight’s use of solar power represents an exciting milestone for the aviation industry. Its innovative and ambitious mission is very much in keeping with Rockwell Collins’ pioneering spirit.”

Story posted: March 26, 2015

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