VIDEO: First round-the-world solar plane ready for take-off

The route of a plane that will fly around the world powered entirely by the sun without using a single drop of fuel has been revealed today by its co-founders and pilots.

The Solar Impulse 2 (Si2) will travel 35,000km over a period of five months, spending up to five days continuously in the air as it visits 12 locations (Scroll down for video). 

“With our attempt to complete the first solar-powered round-the-world flight, we want to demonstrate that clean technology and renewable energy can achieve the impossible,” said Solar Impulse initiator and chairman Bertrand Piccard.

Long haul

Taking off from Abu-Dhabi in late February, the Si2 will visit Oman, India and China before crossing the Pacific Ocean to the USA. It will finally stop in Southern Europe or Northern Africa after crossing the Atlantic before it returns to Abu Dhabi.

“Solar Impulse is not the first solar airplane, however it is the first able to cross oceans and continents – remaining in the air for several days and nights in a row without landing” said Solar Impulse co-founder and chief executive André Borschberg.

It took 12 years to complete feasibility studies and to design and construct the plane. One of the main challenges facing the team was ensuring the safety of the pilot in the unpressurised cockpit over several continuous days’ flight.

Changing the world

The single-seater plane has a wingspan of 72 meters but weighs the same as a car at just 2,300Kg due to its carbon fibre hull. More than 17,000 solar cells built into the wings supply four electric motors, charging lithium batteries during the day to enable it to continue flying at night. Solar Impulse said the Si2 is the most energy-efficient plane ever made.

During stopovers, the Solar Impulse team will be promoting innovative technical solutions to climate change in the hopes of fostering an interest in clean energy amongst youth, industry professionals and government representatives seeking to implement ambitious energy policies.

“Masdar and the emirate of Abu Dhabi are proud to host the departure, and hopefully safe arrival, of Solar Impulse and its pilots, as they dare to fly round the world using only the power of the sun,” said UAE minister of state and chairman of Masdar Dr Sultan Al Jaber.

“Solar Impulse is a demonstration to prove the impossible can be possible, and that innovation knows no boundaries.”

VIDEO: Behind the scenes of Solar Impulse 2

Like this story? These may interest you…

Lucinda Dann

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie