In a world first, entirely solar-powered aircraft Solar Impulse 2 has completed its round-the-world journey. The plane landed in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, which is where it took off on its 40,000km journey in March last year.
Since its initial take-off, the Swiss-engineered aircraft has made 16 stops around the world, powered entirely by solar energy. The aircraft utilises 17,248 solar cells that transfer energy to four electrical motors that power its propellers. It also has a wingspan that stretches 72 metres (greater than a Boeing 747) to catch as many UV rays as possible. The aircraft runs on four advanced lithium-polymer batteries at night.
Over its entire journey, the aircraft completed more than 500 flight hours at an average speed of between 45km/h and 90km/h. It made stops in Oman, India, Myanmar, China, Japan, the US, Span, Italy, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.
However, there were issues; the pilots faced a nine-month delay after the plane’s batteries were damaged during a flight from Japan to Hawaii, as well as a week’s delay before the last leg of the journey when one of the pilots fell ill due to poor weather conditions.
Nevertheless, the plane completed its journey successfully. One of Solar Impulse’s two pilots, Andre Borschberg, said there is no longer a question as to whether it is possible to fly without fuel or polluting emissions.
“By flying around the world thanks to renewable energy and clean technologies, we have demonstrated that we can now make our world more energy efficient,” said the pilot.