During March, 2015 the Solar Impulse 2 will commence the first ever flight around the world using only the power of the sun. Since the Solar Impulse 2 was presented to the public in April 2014, it has inspired curiosity and now the Solar Impulse team announced that the route and timeline for the flight has been set.
The flight, which is scheduled to take place in late February or early March, will commence in Abu Dhabi. From there, the Solar Impulse 2 will make stops in the United States, India, Myanmar, Oman, China and either North Africa or Southern Europe before heading back to Abu Dhabi around August, 2015.
Solar Impulse 2 the first ever to complete round the world flight
There is understandably a lot of excitement with the prospect of using solar technologies to make an around the world flight. The Solar Impulse 2 has some impressive specifications, with a 236-foot wingspan (similar to that of a full size passenger plane) topped with more than 17,200 solar cells; which combined, power the four 17.4 HP motor.
Despite the power, the Solar Impulse 2 weighs less than 5,000 lbs, so it’s lighter than a hippo. However, the flight isn’t without challenges: the cockpit has room for one pilot, but it is unheated and unpressurized. This means piloting the craft will be a challenge for André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard, who are going to share the piloting in the round the world journey.
Even so, Borschberg and Piccard are very confident, and there is good reason, as they have been part of the Solar Impulse team since the beginning. In fact, Borschberg is the CEO and co-founder of Solar Impulse while Piccard is the company president. Together the two have set 8 world flight records including the very first solar power plane flight across the United States in 2013.
Solar powered plane made to push barriers and break records
The aircraft the two used for the flight was the original Solar Impulse, and according to Piccard, the Solar Impulse 2 is a major upgrade. When the Solar Impulse 2 flight is complete, it will clock approximately 21,750 miles and more than 500 hours of flight time.
In an interview, Piccard said that “miracles can be achieved with solar power”, and they want to show that a solar powered craft can fly “night and day without fuel”. Piccard made the statement at the World Future Energy summit held in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE (United Arab Emirates).
Solar Impluse 2 to begin unprecedented journey in Abu Dhabi
Early in January, the Solar Impulse 2 was shipped from Switzerland to Abu Dhabi in several pieces. The parts, which came in a Boeing 747, will be assembled in Abu Dhabi to make sure that it is ready for the flight. After the plane has been reassembled, it will weigh the same as a family car but with a wingspan to match the biggest airliners.
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According to Piccard, the journey is expected to last 25 flight days with speeds ranging from 50 and 100 km (30 to 60 miles) per hour. One of the reasons why the company is very confident is the amount of research they put in. According to Borschberg, the feasibility studies, construction and design took more than 12 years to complete. While the SI2 isn’t the first solar aircraft, it will be the first to journey round the world.