The pioneering Solar Impulse aircraft powered solely by energy from the Sun will embark on its round-the-globe flight in late February.
Crossing two oceans and four continents during its 35,000km journey, the highly innovative single-seater plane will take off from Abu Dhabi and make stops in multiple cities around the world including Muscat in Oman, Varanasi and Ahmedabad in India, Chongqing and Nanjing in China, and Phoenix, Arizona in the US. It will also stop in Europe and North Africa.
The details of the ambitious trip have been announced today by Solar Impulse founders and pilots Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg.
“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 chairman Bertrand Piccard.
“We want youth, leaders, organisations and policymakers to understand that what Solar Impulse can achieve in the air, everyone can accomplish here on the ground in their everyday lives. Renewable energy can become an integral part of our lives, and together, we can help save our planet’s natural resources.”
One of the most challenging phases of the journey will be a five-day non-stop flight from China to Hawaii across the Pacific Ocean.
“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 André Borschberg, Solar Impulse co-founder and CEO. “But now we have to ensure the sustainability of the pilot in order to complete the route. Solar Impulse 2 must accomplish what no other plane in the history of aviation has achieved - flying without fuel for five consecutive days and nights with only one pilot in the unpressurised cockpit.”
Throughout the trip, which is expected to be concluded in mid-2015 again in Abu Dhabi, the two pilots will be taking turns in controlling the aircraft powered by 17,248 solar cells.
The plane, travelling at rather modest speeds between 50 and 100km/h, will soar higher than Mount Everest each day while fully charging its batteries to stay aloft during the night.
The ambitious venture follows 12 years of technological development. In 2013, the first reiteration of the aircraft, Solar Impulse 1, successfully demonstrated it was capable of covering large distances when it flew over the United States in two months.
The Solar Impulse team enlisted help of more than 80 technology companies to help them accomplish the upcoming feat.
American tech giant Google, the world’s second-largest supplier of solar inverters ABB, Altran and watchmaker Omega are among the project's partners.
The Solar Impulse team with its entourage of 80 technicians has already arrived in Abu Dhabi to conduct safety tests, test flights and training.
“Abu Dhabi is the ideal location for us to start and end our mission,” Piccard said. “Initiatives like Masdar have enabled the capital of the United Arab Emirates to be recognised as a global centre of innovation and clean technology by deploying some of the globe’s most sophisticated renewable energy projects.”
During stopovers, the Solar Impulse team will organise meetings, aircraft visits and Google Hangouts On Air in order to promote the mission’s message and highlight innovative technical solutions to climate change.