The first attempt to fly around the world on a plane powered entirely by solar energy successfully took off today from Abu Dhabi. Piloted by the project co-founders André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard, the ultra-lightweight Solar Impulse 2 is currently en route to Muscat, the capital of Oman located 400 kilometers (250 miles) to the east. Over the next five months, Solar Impulse 2’s ambitious and historic journey will cover 12 stops across the globe to illustrate the power of renewable energy and green technology.
The experimental Solar Impulse 2 carries 17,000 solar cells that, coupled with onboard batteries, allow the plane to fly day and night. Despite its massive 72-meter-long (236 feet) wingspan, the ultra-lightweight aircraft weighs just 2,300 kilograms (5,070 pounds)—less than a Toyota Tundra. The solar-powered plane’s five-month-long journey will have a total estimated flight time of 25 days.
Pilots Borschberg and Piccard will take alternate shifts in the single-seater plane and both have underwent intensive training for the trip. A team of 65 support staff will travel with the two pilots. If successful, the world’s first solar-powered round-the-world flight will touch down in India, Myanmar, and China, before crossing the Pacific Ocean to make stops in three cities in the United States. The plane would then fly across the Atlantic Ocean and stop in southern Europe or North Africa before completing its journey in Abu Dhabi. The longest leg of the trip is the five-day-five-night-long 8,500-kilometer (5,270 mile) stretch across the Pacific Ocean.
“We want to share our vision of a clean future,” said Piccard.”Climate change is a fantastic opportunity to bring in the market new green technologies that save energy, save natural resources of our planet, make profit, create jobs, and sustain growth.”
Images via Solar Impulse