Today, Solar Impulse 2 completed its epic round-the-world journey, powered only by the sun’s energy. Swiss pilot and initiator Bertrand Piccard landed the experimental solar-powered aircraft in Abu Dhabi after 48 hours in flight from Cairo, Egypt—the 17th and final leg of an adventure that began more than a year ago. Taking turns piloting each leg of the journey, Piccard and SI co-founder André Borschberg have bagged numerous world records and a cumulative 558 hours of flight time to achieve their shared goal, all without burning a single drop of fossil fuel.
Solar Impulse 2 took off from Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates on March 9, 2015, embarking on the first-ever solar-powered flight around the world. The pilots took turns, each flying a leg of the journey in the one-man lightweight airplane while the other rested after each arduous flight. Although the journey wasn’t without hiccups, including a months-long layover in Hawaii following a battery failure, the two pilots successfully and safely demonstrated the awesome power of solar energy, while spreading awareness and education along their flight path and, indeed, around the rest of the world.
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Ten days after Borschberg landed the 100-percent solar-powered plant in Cairo, Piccard climbed into the cockpit to prepare for the circumnavigation’s final leg. Solar Impulse 2 took off at 1:28am local time July 24, heading for Abu Dhabi. Before takeoff, Piccard shared thoughts about departing the city that marked the beginning and end of his 1999 round-the-world balloon flight. “It’s very emotional to take off from Egypt with SI2…” he said. “It’s precisely here that started my dream of making another circumnavigation, but this time without fuel, only on solar power. I’m excited to come so close to the goal, but unfortunately there are still so many people we have to motivate before having a world running on the same clean technologies.”
Solar Impulse 2 landed safely in Abu Dhabi at 4:05 am local time on July 26, with an elapsed flight time of 48 hours and 37 minutes. The plane’s trip around the world took 23 days, covered 43,041 kilometers and set 19 world records (11 of which are pending ratification).
Upon landing and exiting the cockpit, Piccard said: “This is not only a first in the history of aviation; it’s before all a first in the history of energy. I’m sure that within 10 years we’ll see electric airplanes transporting 50 passengers on short to medium haul flights. But it’s not enough. The same clean technologies used on Solar Impulse could be implemented on the ground in our daily life to divide by two the CO2 emissions in a profitable way. Solar Impulse is only the beginning, now take it further! ”
Images via Solar Impulse