Two Swiss pilots have landed their solar-powered aircraft after a 17-leg, 40,000 kilometre journey around the world powered entirely by renewable energy.
Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg set the Solar Impulse 2 (Si2) down in Abu Dhabi in the early hours of July 26, completing a historic trip that began more than a year ago. The Si2 left Abu Dhabi on March 9, 2015, making stops in Oman, India, Myanmar and China and setting a world record for the longest solar-powered flight while crossing the Pacific Ocean from Nagoya, Japan to Kalaeloa, Hawaii. Unfortunately, the plane's batteries sustained damage from overheating on that trip; new parts were ordered, but with the days growing shorter in the northern hemisphere, the decision was made to store the plane until 2016.
The Si2 resumed its voyage in April and made several stops in the continental United States before crossing the Atlantic. The final leg of the journey, from Cairo, Egypt to Abu Dhabi, took two days and 37 minutes and used about 918 kilowatt hours of solar energy.
The successful circumnavigation of the globe represents the realization of a lifelong dream for Piccard and Borschberg, who hope to develop and promote other solar-powered technologies.
“The future is clean. The future is you. The future is now. Let’s take it further,” Piccard told the crowd that gathered in Abu Dhabi to welcome the Si2.
The plane is powered by 17,000 photovoltaic cells, which transfer solar energy to four electric motors that drive its propellers. It's also equipped with four batteries that enable it to fly at night. Loaded, the plane weighs just 5,100 pounds, or about as much as a minivan, and can travel up to 140 kilometres per hour at a maximum cruising altitude of 39,000 feet.
Check out the video below to see the Si2 in action: