Solar Impulse 2 will return to Abu Dhabi after a five-month journey with stops in Oman, India, China, Hawaii and New York, travelling 35,000km.
Abu Dhabi – A plane powered by the sun will attempt an unprecedented flight around the world next month, the project’s founders said, seeking to prove that flying is possible without using fossil fuel.
Solar Impulse 2 is set to take off from Abu Dhabi and its route, which was unveiled on Tuesday in Abu Dhabi, includes stops in Oman, India, China, Hawaii and New York. It will cross the Pacific Ocean and fly across the United States and southern Europe to arrive back in Abu Dhabi.
Although groundbreaking in its distance, the trip will not be undertaken at a lightning pace.
On its five-month journey of 35,000km, the engines will be powered only by solar energy. The two Swiss pilots will take turns at the controls in the tiny cabin for five consecutive days and nights in the air.
“Miracles can be achieved with renewables such as solar power. We want to show we can fly day and night in an aircraft without a drop of fuel,” Bertrand Piccard, one of the pilots and the project’s co-founder, told reporters on the sidelines of the World Future Energy summit currently underway in Abu Dhabi.
The plane, which has the weight of a family car (2,300kg) and a wingspan equal to that of the largest passenger airliners, will take off in late February and return by late July. Its journey will span approximately 25 flight days at speeds between 50 and 100km per hour.
Feasibility studies, design and construction have taken 12 years, said Andre Borschberg, the second pilot and co-founder.
“It is not the first solar airplane, however it is the first able to cross oceans and continents,” he said.
Piccard said of the challenge: “It is simply the unknown. It is a question of technical reliability, of human weather and it is the challenge of discovery.”
If something goes wrong, they will build another aircraft and continue the journey, he said.
“There’s a will in humankind to make a better world and find solutions to climate change.”
The plane is the successor of Solar Impulse, a pioneering craft which notched up a 26-hour flight in 2010, proving its ability to store enough power in lithium batteries during the day to keep flying at night.
Aviation enthusiasts will be able to watch a live video stream of the plane’s progress once it sets off from Abu Dhabi on its pioneering voyage on the firm’s website www.solarimpulse.com.
“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,” said Andre Borschberg.
‘Abu Dhabi is the ideal location for us to start and end our mission. Initiatives like Masdar have enabled the capital of the United Arab Emirates to be recognised as a global centre of innovation and clean technology. Masdar and Abu Dhabi are setting an example for the entire world, promoting the use of diverse, sustainable and clean energy sources by deploying some of the globe’s most sophisticated renewable energy projects. Most importantly, Masdar shares our unwavering commitment to ensuring a cleaner future for our planet,” said Piccard.
During stopovers, the Solar Impulse team will organise meetings, airplane visits and Google Hangouts in order to promote the mission’s message and highlight innovative technical solutions to climate change. In doing so, Solar Impulse hopes to foster an interest in clean energy amongst youth, industry professionals and government representatives seeking to implement ambitious energy policies.
Companies involved in the project include Bayer AG, Solvay, ABB, Schindler, Omega and Abu Dhabi’s Masdar.