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Solar Impulse secures funding to continue journey

Solar Impulse landed in Hawaii in July, where it will spend the winter Keystone

The Solar Impulse sun-powered airplane, currently waiting to resume its round-the-world trip, has raised the $20 million (CHF20.5 million) needed to finish the record-setting journey, according to its co-founder and pilot André Borschberg.

According to Borschberg, who spoke at the United Nations climate summit in Paris, the latest round of sponsors includes chemical maker Solvay, Swiss lift maker Schindler, power grid maker ABB and Swatch’s Omega brand. 

“The financial side is under control,” Borschberg, a former Swiss Air Force fighter pilot and co-founder of Solar Impulse, told Reuters.

“We are all very focused and looking forward to continuing next year,” said the 62-year-old, who flies solo, alternating between legs of the journey with his co-pilot Bertrand Piccard. 

Since 2004, Solar Impulse’s budget is now some $170 million. The plane is currently wintering in Hawaii, where it ended the most difficult leg of its journey in July. Due to overheating batteries, Borschberg’s team was unable to complete the round-the-world journey in 2015. 

However, Borschberg said in Paris that he plans to begin test flights in March and continue the trip around the world – first to North America – in April. 

West Coast stops have been left open to accommodate potentially fickle weather. Vancouver, as well as San Francisco, Los Angeles or Phoenix are all candidates, Borschberg said.

The team is also planning on a stop in the US. Midwest followed by New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport. Then, the Solar Impulse will cross to either Europe or North Africa before completing its journey around the globe in Abu Dhabi.

“We know we can do it, but it remains a challenge,” Borschberg said.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR