This year, during the second half of the round-the-world solar flight, we made a few 360° video experiments. Here’s a wrap-up of our creations from Hawaii and back to Abu Dhabi, to document in an immersive way our 40,000km adventure without fuel to promote clean technologies.
1. Pilot Training in Hawaii
When in February 2016 we returned to Hawaii (where we had left Si2 for hibernation because we needed to change its overheated batteries), the maintenance flights were great to experiment with 360 cameras on the aircraft and spend quality time with our pilots and visiting students.
We worked with the 360 Theta S camera (one of the only compact cameras with full HD/1920×1080 on the market a year ago), which is small and lightweight (125g).
A perfect fit for our airplane as every gram on board needs to be taken into consideration, and we didn’t want to modify its aerodynamics.
Our engineers had to test the cameras for different pressures/altitudes, as well as design a few custom parts to be able to stick the cameras on the wing tip, handling mast, below the fuselage and inside the cockpit.
Part of the following video was filmed during a school visit where our pilots Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg introduced the project. A great moment we can now relive in 360°.
2. Hawaii Flights 360 Best of
Incredible time in Hawaii, while preparing for the second part of the Pacific crossing. We experimented a lot with our 360 cameras, on the aircraft, on our e-bikes, mounted on some of the ground crew members, cars…here’s a best of!
3. Embedded in the Team Through a 360 Video
Our third 360 video would this time be shot on the ground, to make the viewer become part of both the ground team on the runway, and the team at the Mission Control Center in Monaco (where the mission engineers work on finding the best flight strategy for Solar Impulse).
4. Building a VR app with Arizona State University
Have you ever asked yourself what it’s like to be in the cockpit of the first solar airplane able to fly for several days and nights in a row? Thanks to Peter Lafford and his students from the Arizona State University (ASU), you’ll now be able to test it in virtual reality.
Here’s how: install the “Solar Impulse Cockpit VR” Android app via Google Play on your smartphone, and use a virtual reality headset like Google Cardboard. And then enjoy the full immersion thanks to the 360° scope and audio track which explains the instruments and cockpit layout.
// App Download HERE
5. Experimenting Time-lapse in 360°
Tulsa, Oklahoma was a stop we didn’t expect and the Mission Control Center engineers had to work very hard in order to find a weather window allowing Solar Impulse to fly East towards New York.
The American Airlines hangar which sheltered Si2 was an amazing place: massive, with an incredible light, and in the back, an old aircraft used for team training. A great setting for a first 360 time-lapse experiment. You’ll see the ground crew team and engineers handling the plane and doing the post-flight airframe inspection and general checks.
Bonus: wait 40 seconds to see a Boeing also enter the hangar for a night of maintenance.
6. Building the Mobile Hangar in 360°
You might know that during some of our stops, we used a custom-made mobile hangar to shelter Si2. It was set up in Abu Dhabi, Myanmar, Japan…and in the city of the Wright Brothers: Dayton, Ohio.
We shot this scene with 4 different Theta S, at sunset and during the night after the airplane had landed, while the ground crew was building this incredible structure.
7. Flyby of the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan in 360°
Solar Impulse and André Borschberg got the chance to fly from Lehigh Valley to New York, a short flight at low altitude which allowed us to put a 360 camera in the cockpit (can you spot it in the tweet below?).
The flyby happened in the deep of the night, hence the fact that the footage is quite under-exposed. But it was an amazing moment that you can also relive through our flight logbook, best of video or GoPro footage, and which we’ll always remember. It’s not every day you get to sit virtually in the cockpit of a solar airplane — flying without fuel over the Statue of Liberty and New York City!
8. The Mission Control Center in 360°
Our Mission Control Center in Monaco is the place where the flight strategy is elaborated. The mission engineers determine the routes, altitudes, and energy management strategy to help the pilot stay airborne for up to 5 days and nights!
We made another 360 video to show you what it feels like being in charge of a solar flight!
9. Into the Extreme: 360 Cameras at the Altitude of Mount Everest
After our work on the ground in Tulsa and Dayton, we felt it was time to go back in the air. The engineering team tested the cameras again and we were authorized to put two of them in the cockpit for André Borschberg’s flight from Seville to Cairo.
We got the support of Facebook360 channel to share this incredible aviation moment.
One camera was placed on a selfie stick, to allow the pilot to film from outside the cockpit at 28'000 feet. The other was placed in the cockpit to document André’s life during the flight above the Mediterranean sea which would last 2 days and 20 minutes.
The full video is available below and will stay one of André’s greatest flight memories for sure.
This is it for the recap of our round-the-world in 360 video! What’s you favorite video from the above selection?