Solar-Powered Plane Begins Around-the-World Flight With No Fuel
Photo via Twitter
In an effort to spark the movement toward replacing "old polluting technologies with clean and efficient technologies," the Switzerland-based solar-powered aircraft project Solar Impulse is aiming to complete the first-ever around-the-world flight devoid of jet fuel.
According to the Associated Press, Solar Impulse founders Andre Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard departed Abu Dhabi on Monday.
Borschberg and Piccard said their goal is to lead politicians, celebrities and private citizens to "confront the Conference on Climate Change of the United Nations, which will define the new Kyoto protocol in December 2015 in Paris."
The duo will take turns piloting the plane over the course of the journey, which is expected to take months to complete. The first stop is scheduled in Muscat, Oman, but afterward the single-seater aircraft will travel to Asia before crossing the Pacific.
U.S. stops include Hawaii, Phoenix and New York before crossing the Atlantic into Europe.
"I am confident we have a very special aeroplane, and it will have to be to get us across the big oceans," said Borschberg via BBC.com. "We may have to fly for five days and five nights to do that, and it will be a challenge."
"But we have the next two months, as we fly the legs to China, to train and prepare ourselves."
The revolutionary aircraft, known as the Solar Impulse 2, is a larger version of the original prototype that took flight several years ago.
Here's a close look at the aircraft via Indian public service broadcaster Prasar Bharati:
Constructed out of carbon fiber and boasting more than 17,000 solar cells in its wing, which supply the plane with renewable energy by recharging four lithium polymer batteries, the plane only weighs about as much as a car (roughly 5,000 pounds) despite featuring a 230-plus-foot wingspan.
For perspective, that's longer than a Boeing 747.
The Solar Impulse 2 was unveiled nearly a year ago and completed its two-hour maiden flight last June over Switzerland. But this year's around-the-world trip will be a much more difficult test for the project and its founders as the aircraft isn't expected back in Abu Dhabi until late July or August.
In addition to resting and performing the necessary maintenance, Borschberg and Piccard will aim to showcase the benefit of clean technologies at each stop along the way.
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