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Solar Impulse 2 Is Preparing for a Flight Around the World—Without Any Fuel!

SolarImpulse2If you thought the record-breaking solar electric car from Sunswift was the crowning achievement in solar powered vehicles, then you haven’t seen anything yet!

Bertrand Piccard, the doctor, psychiatrist, explorer and aeronaut who made the first ever non-stop round-the-world balloon flight, and André Borschberg, engineer and graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in management science, have teamed up to take a trip around the world. Except the plane that they are using doesn’t have any fuel on board!

Their plane, the Solar Impulse 2, is named after their company, which is dedicated to building a completely autonomous plane that runs completely on solar power. And right now, Solar Impulse 2 is going through its final stages of prepping for its world-record shattering flight around the world sometime in March or April.

In 2013, the first prototype model of the Solar Impulse plane completed a piloted, cross-country flight over the US from Mountain View, California’s Moffett Field to New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport. And now Solar Impulse 2, or HB-SIB according to the engineers, is looking to spread its wings and go the distance. Check out this video of the Solar Impulse team going through a test flight on this amazing machine.

Piccard and Borschberg recently announced the plane’s itinerary, which will begin at Abu Dhabi and end back there five months later after flying 32,000 km (19,883.87 miles). The plane will stop for breaks in several cities to relieve the pilots, including Muscat in Oman, Varanasi and Ahmedabad in India, Chongqing and Nanjing in China, and Phoenix, Arizona. The plane will also stop once more in either Europe or North Africa. One of the longest legs will be a non-stop flight from China to Hawaii — five days and nights.

According to Design News, the plane weighs 2.3 metric tons and has a wingspan of 72 meters (or 236 feet!). That large wingspan is crucial for storing the plane’s 17,248 solar cells that allow it to fly—even at night. The plane is also made of extremely lightweight materials, many of them designed by Bayer MaterialScience and Solvay Specialty Polymers.

Piccard and Borschberg say they have no intention of revolutionizing the aviation industry. They want to demonstrate that alternative energy sources and new technologies can achieve what some consider impossible. By achieving this record breaking flight in a solar powered airplane, Solar Impulse intends to mobilize public enthusiasm for new technologies and create positive emotions about renewable energies. You can read more about their story on their website here.

Solar Impulse also wants to encourage and inspire each and every one of us to become pioneers and explorers in our own lives, and to invent a brighter future. We think that is a noble goal for these brave pioneers and we wish them luck on their journey. Hopefully, more young aerospace engineers will rise to the challenge and make solar power the next standard in aviation!

 

photo credit: Designnews.com

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