Imagine… an airplane being able to travel around the world without the need to re-fuel, in fact without the need for fuel at all.
Solar Impulse 2 (Si2) is the first sun-powered airplane, capable of circling the globe using only the sun as fuel. The Solar Impulse 2 project lead by Bertrand Piccard launched in 2003 in order to demonstrate to the world the power of clean technologies and renewable energy. On Monday, after crossing four continents, two oceans and three seas the Solar Impulse 2 landed in Abu Dhabi, more than a year after its initial take off.
The aircraft is fueled by 17,000 solar cells located in its wings. These cells power 4 electric motors that drive four-meter long propellers. The plane has a 3.8-m3 cockpit and is able to manage a 70km/hr. average speed. Due to its broad wings and lightweight the plane is often sensitive to turbulence. Due to this and the lengthy journey, Pilots Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg had to withstand hard conditions and cope with extreme temperatures. The journey has lasted around 558 hours divided into 17 legs covering a total distance of 42,000km. Before arriving to Abu Dabhi Al Bateen Executive Airport, Solar Impulse 2 made stops in Oman, India, Myanmar, China, Japan, Hawaii, California, Phoenix, Tulsa, Dayton, Lehigh Valley, New York and Seville.
The longest journey was the 8th leg of the Solar Impulse 2’s trek from Nagoya to Hawaii on the 3rd of July 2015. The plane broke the world record after flying 7,200km during 118 hours. However, problems due to overheating came up in Hawaii where the Solar Impulse team had to repair the plane batteries. The aircraft was stuck for over a year, delaying the planes journey until the problem was fixed. While the batteries were being repaired the Solar Impulse engineering team researched various options for better cooling and heating processes to be used on long flights.
At last, the historic round-the-world trip was successfully completed on the 26th of July 2016 when Solar Impulse 2 landed in Abu Dhabi from Cairo proving that clean technologies can achieve the impossible.