World’s First Global Flight Based on Solar Power Begins

Solar Impulse 2 in Dubai at take off 1 photo
After months of preparations, countless hours spent in flight simulators and years of great engineering, former air-force pilot Andre Borschberg and his close friend, famous explorer Bertrand Piccard took off today. They emerged in a long-expected record-breaking attempt to fly around the world in a solar-powered plane. Called Solar Impulse-2, the aircraft took off from the Emirate, heading east to Muscat in Oman this morning.
As climate change remains one of the most disputed issues of the our century, governmental incentives for green technologies keep pushing the solar-powered tech forward. Predictions are that this will become the dominant source of electricity globally by 2050. Yes, it’s that big. Heck even motorsport has its own green races nowadays, we’re talking about Formula E of course.

Other than being an incredibly courageous, if not even insane expedition that will most likely last several months, the two explorers are not only trying to break a record, but also spread a campaigning message about clean technologies. They will spread the word with every stop at various locations around the planet.

We’re wondering if Auguste Piccard, the famous explorer who was the first to take a balloon into the stratosphere in 1931, ever imagined his grandson will emerge into an epic flight around the planet without a drop of fuel. Who knows, maybe not even Bertrand’s father - also famous for reaching the deepest place in the ocean in 1960 - never believed humanity will reach a point when global trips will be possible only using green power.

A solar-powered aircarft with a wingspan a little shorter than of an Airbus A380

But this is what the upgraded Solar Impulse aircraft was designed to do. Its little brother, Solar Impulse 1, already set a line of records which include successful solar-powered flights from Switzerland to Spain and Morocco in 2012 and a multi-stage flight across the USA in 2013.

The 71.9m (236 ft) wingspan of Solar Impulse 2 is slightly less than that of a an Airbus A380 which is only the world’s largest passenger airliner. As opposed to the big fellow, the carbon-fiber solar-muncher weighs only 2.3 tons (5,100 lbs), a little more than an average car. It features a larger, non-pressurized cockpit and advanced avionics, features such as an autopilot to allow for multi-day transcontinental and trans-oceanic flights.

The 17,248 photovoltaic cells power 4 electric motors and juice-up 4 lithium-ion batteries providing 13 kW each. The propeller diameter is 4m (13.1 ft) and the take-off speed is 35 km/h (22 mph). The performance is quite impressive to be honest, we’re looking at a maximum speed of 77 kts (140 kmh / 87 mph) and a cruise speed of 90 kmh/56 mph (60 kmh/37mph during the night).

The legs of flight crossing the Pacific and Atlantic oceans are the longest and are each expected to take about five days, covering a distance of up to 8,500 km (5,270 miles). Today’s leg to Oman will cover about 400 km and will take approximately 12 hours.

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