Solar plane makes history after completing round-the-world flight

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Revillard/Rezo/SolarImpulse

The world of renewable energy accomplished a monumental feat. Solar Impulse 2, a solar-powered aeroplane became the first manned plane of its kind that successfully completed round-the-world flight. The final stretch of its 23 days long journey in the air ended  at the place where it all began, Abu Dhabi on Tuesday 26 July.

A plane powered only by sun, requiring no fossil fuel, able to tour the globe may sound a bit like science fiction, but two Swiss pilots, Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg have done the unimaginable. Solar Impulses adventure climbed up a rocky road, following the troubles with overheated batteries back in 2015, which delayed the journey for 9 months.

“I hope people will understand that it is not just a first in the history of aviation, but also a first in the history of energy.” said Piccard. “We have flown 40,000km, but now it is up to other people to take it further. It is up to every person in a house to take it further, every head of state, every mayor in a city, every entrepreneur or CEO of a company.”

What follows is a convenient summary of interesting facts pertaining to this historical flight:

  • Whole feat consisted of 16 legs, the longest leg took 117 hours and 52 minutes on route Nagoya-Honolulu (7212 km), piloted by Borschberg
  • Pilots have flown 40,000 km in total
  • The plane has a wingspan of 72 meters, wider than Boeing 747 and weighting 2.3 tonnes (just as much as a mid-sized truck)
  • Powered by more than 17,000 solar cells on its wings
  • Maximum altitude: 8,53 km, minimum altitude: 1,52 km
  • Maximum speed 140 km/h with average airspeed 75 km/h
  • Maximum flight distance 8,183 km
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Image source: The Guardian/SolarImpulse
  • The pilots had to alternate because the cabin only has capacity for one
  • Neither pilot could stand in the cockpit, the seat was adjustable for stretching and also for sanitary purposes
  • In case of falling asleep, pilots wore goggles that flashed lights and buzzing armbands
  • The cockpit wasn’t pressurized so pilots could feel all the temperature changes

It’s very important to understand, that the whole project was not to develop solar-powered planes for widespread use, but to showcase the capabilities and potential of renewable energy, to push further the vision of a more sustainable world, not as dependent on fossil fuel. With global warming and other threats menacing our planet, we must think smart and beyond not only for the sake of environment but also think “green” for times, when we wont be able to fuel technology deemed to be key for our survival anymore.

You can relive the whole Solar Impulse’s adventure here

(Sources: The Guardian, The Independent)

Michal Madaras

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