The first round-the-world solar flight could begin this week. Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, the Swiss co-founders and pilots of Solar Impulse, have mapped out the flight route for Solar Impulse 2 (Si2) – the first solar-powered plane that can fly day and night without any fuel or emissions.
Si2 will land in 12 locations across the world and travel 35,000 kilometres in the first attempt to fly around the globe without using a drop of fuel.
For pilots Piccard and Borschberg, the drive behind their mission is to demonstrate how clean technologies and a pioneering spirit can change the world.
‘With our attempt to complete the first solar powered round-the-world flight, we want to demonstrate that clean technology and renewable energy can achieve the impossible. We want youth, leaders, organizations and policymakers to understand that what Solar Impulse can achieve in the air, everyone can accomplish here on the ground in their everyday lives. Renewable energy can become an integral part of our lives, and together, we can help save our planet’s natural resources.’
Bertrand Piccard, initiator and chairman of Solar Impulse
Solar Impulse already holds eight world records for its original Solar Impulse prototype, the first solar-powered aircraft to carry out a night-time flight. Si2 is a new single-seater aircraft made of carbon fibre.
It has a 72-meter wingspan (larger than that of the Boeing 747) and weighs just 2,300kg – roughly as much as a car. The 17,248 solar cells built into the wing supply four electric motors (17.5 CV each) with renewable energy.
During the day, the solar cells recharge lithium batteries, which weigh 633kg. This allows the aircraft to fly at night, providing virtually unlimited autonomy.
The flight route
Si2 will take-off from Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, this month and will return by late July or early August 2015. The route includes stops in Muscat (Oman), Ahmedabad and Varanasi (India), Mandalay (Myanmar) and Chongqing and Nanjing (China).
After crossing the Pacific Ocean via Hawaii, Si2 will fly across Continental USA, stopping in Phoenix and New York City’s JFK. A location in the Midwest will be decided according to weather conditions.
After crossing the Atlantic, the final legs include a stop-over in Southern Europe or North Africa before arriving back in Abu Dhabi.
The first round-the-world solar adventure will span approximately 25 flight days, spread over 5 months and covering approximately 35,000 kilometres at speeds of between 50 and 100 km/h.