Solar Impulse 2 will be the first solar powered airplane to across the world this summer. The single seater Swiss creation will take off from Masdar City in the United Arab Emirates for a 5 month journey around the world beginning this March. Constructed of carbon fiber and solar panels, Solar Impulse 2 is capable of flying during the day and night at a relaxed 140 miles/hour. The lightweight craft is bigger than a Boeing 747 and weighs the same as a minivan according to inventor and pilot Bertrand Piccard. A team of close to 90 engineers and technicians have been led by engineer Andre Borschberg and Piccard for the better part of the past 12 years to develop the plane.
“Since it’s the first time anyone has attempted this, there’s no benchmark, nobody to copy, nothing that exists in the field. We’ve had to invent the technology, the strategy, the process—and basically, anything could go wrong,” Piccard said.
The plane will be manned by Piccard and Borschberg throughout the 35,000 km flight, with the pilots alternating over 12 legs. Flying the aircraft is a uniquely challenging feat. The plane is particularly sensitive to weather changes, inertia, and turbulence because of its light weight. As a result, the pilots must be especially vigilant over the course of the flight. Though the plane can theoretically fly on indefinitely, provided that agreeable weather allows for recharging of onboard solar powered batteries, pilots could last for a maximum of five days inside the craft. The cockpit acts as both a nap pod, with a seat that stretches out flat, and a bathroom, with a toilet under the seat.
“Today, we can save 50 per cent of the world’s energy using clean technologies. We can create jobs, make profits, build a better future and give hope to people. That’s what I want this flight to do,” says Piccard.
Read More – Solar Impulse 2: Around the World in 150 Days (Macleans, Rosemary Counter)