Monday morning’s event clearly shows that air travel stepped into a new era: a solar-powered plane began its trip around the world.
It all began in the early hours of March 9 when a Swiss solar-powered airplane took off from Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. This is how the first trip around the world without the use of fuel began.
The plane is being flown by Andre Borschberg, the founder of Solar Impulse. There will be a total of two pilots, switching each time one of them tires and needs to rest. The second pilot is the co-founder, Bertrand Piccard. The journey is expected to take months to complete.
With this project, the two pilots wanted to show that it is possible to replace “old polluting technologies with clean and efficient technologies.”
The first destination in their trip is Muscat, Oman. It is expected the pilots will need to fly about 10 hours to reach it. The challenge will be even greater when flying over the Pacific and Atlantic oceans as they will need to continuously fly for five or six days straight.
The plane bears the name Solar Impulse 2 as it is the larger, updated version of the first single seat solar-powered aircraft that was tested 5 years ago. It is made out of carbon fiber, having 17,248 cells incorporated into its structure. These cells are used to absorb solar energy which then recharges the plane’s four lithium polymer batteries.
The plane’s wingspan is about 72 meters (or 236 feet), surpassing that of a Boeing 747. It weighs more than 2 tons (2,300 kilograms or 5,070 pounds).
The plane’s debut was in June, when it was used during a two hour flight over Switzerland. This event took place only two months after it had been revealed.
The next destination after Oman is India. There, the plane will make two stops, then head out to China and Myanmar. The biggest and most difficult phase begins here. The two pilots will need to cross the Pacific Ocean to reach Hawaii. From there, the plane will head towards Phoenix, Arizona and then New York’s John F. Kennedy International airport.
The next destination on their itinerary depends on the weather. Crossing the Atlantic Ocean might include a stop in the south of Europe or Morocco before returning to their initial destination: Abu Dhabi.
Image Source: International Business Times