The solar-powered aircraft Solar Impulse 2 (Si2) has completed the first-ever around-the-world powered by solar energy alone. The zero-emission electric solar airplane landed back in Abu Dhabi after a total of 23 days of flight and 43,041 km traveled on a journey that began March 9, 2015. Back in April of 2014 I posted an article about the Si2 before it started it’s journey which was originally planned to take off a month later.
Since its take off, the Swiss-engineered Solar Impulse 2 has made 12 stops around the world to demonstrate that using the plane’s clean technologies on the ground can halve the world’s energy consumption, save natural resources and improve quality of life.
After landing the plane, pilot Bertrand Piccard was greeted outside the cockpit by his Solar Impulse partner and fellow pilot Andre Borschberg. They hugged and pumped their fists in the air.
“The future is clean. The future is you. The future is now. Let’s take it further,” Piccard said, speaking through a microphone to applause and cheers from a crowd that included Prince Albert of Monaco.
The aircraft is uniquely powered by 17,248 solar cells that transfer energy to four electrical motors that power the plane’s propellers. It runs on four lithium polymer batteries at night. The plane’s wingspan stretches 236 feet (72 meters) to catch the sun’s energy.
At around 5,070 pounds (2,300 kilograms), the plane weighs about as much as a minivan or mid-sized truck. An empty Boeing 747, in comparison, weighs 400,000 pounds (180,000 kilograms). To help steady it during takeoffs and landings, the plane was guided by runners and bicyclists.
Solar Impulse 2 only has 3.8m3 cockpit capacity
Taking turns in the single-seater 3.8m3 cockpit, Swiss pioneers Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg flew the Si2 around the world, crossing Asia, the Pacific Ocean, the US, the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea and the Middle East.
“This is not only a first in the history of aviation; it’s before all a first in the history of energy,” Piccard said. “I’m sure that within 10 years we’ll see electric airplanes transporting 50 passengers on short- to medium-haul flights. But it’s not enough. The same clean technologies used on Solar Impulse could be implemented on the ground in our daily life to divide by two the CO2 emissions in a profitable way. Solar Impulse is only the beginning, now take it further!”
Below is a clip with some beauty shots of Si2 in the air from German newscast Tagesschau: