Solar Impulse 2 To Take Its First Flight Around The World

solar impulse 2 photo

The first aerial flight to circumnavigate the globe was conducted in 1924 by a team of aviators from the U.S. Air Service (now known as the Air Force). It took 175 days and covered 27,553 miles. Ninety years later, the first solar powered flight around the world will take place aboard Solar Impulse 2. 

In March of 2015, pilots Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg are planning to make it around the world on the Solar Impulse 2, a 100 percent solar powered airplane. It will take off from Abu Dhabi, the capitol of the United Arab Emirates.

“We have chosen [Abu Dhabi] as being the best and most suitable departure point for the round-the-world tour, due to its climate, infrastructure and commitment to clean technologies,” Borschberg, Solar Impulse co-founder and CEO, said in a statement.

In 2013, the pilot team flew the first Solar Impulse on a five leg journey from California to New York. It however, was not designed to fly around the world, but rather, to demonstrate that a solar powered plane could fly day and night without being refueled. The newest version, the Solar Impulse 2 will carry 17,000 solar cells, with a wingspan longer than a 747, all the while weighing less than a Toyota Tundra.

But the flight will most definitely have its challenges. The team will accumulate a total of 500 flight hours in a tiny cockpit with weather conditions from 40 below to 104 degrees F. There’s no pressurization system and just six oxygen bottles aboard.

“What is really special, is that it is the first and only airplane in the world which has unlimited endurance. We have an airplane which is fully sustainable in terms of energy, and our challenge now is to make the pilot sustainable as well,” says Borschberg.

The route will start at the Arabian Gulf, flying over India, Myanmar, and China, followed by two ocean crossings, and the U.S., before making their way back around. The pilots will stopover in India, Myanmar, China, the U.S., and Southern Europe or Northern Africa. Although the exact cities will be chosen based on operational considerations.

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Image: Charles Barilleaux