The Solar Impulse 2 airplane took off at Abu Dhabi on Monday morning to begin the first phase of what the $150 million project’s backers hope will be the first round-the-world flight powered by nothing but the sun.
Solar Impulse is claimed to be the first aircraft that is capable to fly day and night without a drop of fuel, actuated solely by solar energy. The single-seater aircraft made of carbon fibre has a 72 metre wingspan, larger than that of Boeing-747 and weighs just 2,300 kg, that equals to the weight of a car.
The flight’s wing has the in-built 17,248 solar cells that supply electric motors with renewable energy. The solar energy is absorbed and the solar cells recharge four lithium polymer batteries totalling 633kg each, which enables the aircraft to fly at night time without fuel and hence have virtually unlimited autonomy.
The journey of this sun powered flight consists of moving from continent to continent flying over Pacific and Atlantic oceans in the process for the next five months. Swiss engineer Andre Borschberg holds the control of the flight for the Abu Dhabi to Oman journey, which began at about 7:12 am local time, along with his Swiss co-pilot Bertrand Piccard. Right on the time for takeoff, there were some technical glitches that delayed the flight’s take-off by 40 minutes at Abu Dhabi’s Al Bateen Executive Airport.
The plan is to stop off at various locations on the way around the world, to rest and to carry out maintenance and also to spread a campaigning message about clean technologies (environmental friendly technologies). “With clean technologies we can achieve the impossible – that’s what we’ll demonstrate,” said Bertrand Piccard, the other pilot on Solar Impulse’s two-man tag team.
The route map of the round-the-world flight includes a small halt at Muscat (Oman) followed by Ahmedabad and Varanasi in India, Mandalay in Myanmar and Chongqing and Nanjing in China. After crossing the Pacific Ocean via Hawaii, the flight will be stopping at few places in USA like Phoenix, the Midwest and New York City. It is expected to take 10 to 12 hours to fly to Oman and the organizers say it would take four or five months before the solar flight complete the 22,000-mile circuit in Abu Dhabi.
The plan and the stops of Solar Impulse 2 is depicted in the map below: