This solar-powered airplane is about to take its first around-the-world flight

Bertrand Piccard had plenty of inspiration
for building the world’s first solar airplane. Not
only did he pilot the first around-the-world balloon
flight in 1999, his father helped design the
submarine that became the first to plunge
undersea to hit the earth’s surface, and his
grandfather rode the first air balloon into the
stratosphere in 1931.

Now, after years of testing prototypes and
rounding up funds from companies like SwissCom,
Toyota, ABB, and Omega, Piccard’s vision has
become a reality: The Solar Impulse 2, the world’s
first solar-powered airplane fueled completely by
sunlight, is prepping for its first around-the-world
flight.

The plan, to be executed by piloting
hobbyist Piccard and the project’s co-
pilot and lead engineer André Borschberg, is to fly
the plane on a 12-leg, multi-week flight starting
in March, powered by nothing but sunlight. The
routes: from Abu Dhabi over the Arabian Sea,
India, Myanmar, China, the Pacific Ocean, the US,
the Atlantic Ocean, and southern Europe or North
Africa, and then back to the UAE. The trip could
take five months or more, depending on
weather, which needs to be sunny enough during
daytime hours to charge the plane’s lithium
batteries to last through the night, a spokesperson
for the Solar Impulse 2 told Quartz.

The Solar Impulse 2 was preceded by an earlier
prototype, which took flight across the US ( http://
http://www.solarimpulse.com/en/across-america/ ) last
year and set a 26-hour record in 2010. The
Impulse 2’s 236-foot (72 meter) wingspan—longer
than that of a Boeing 747 and the earlier prototype—minimizes drag and adds more surface
area for solar cells.

The planes unheated, unpressurized cockpit fits
one pilot and doubles as a toilet and nap
pod. Piccard and Borshberg will be conducting
mandatory landings every few days to take turns
flying.

Its maximum cruising altitude of 27,000 ft is only
slightly lower than the 30,000-40,000 ft altitude of
most commercial airplanes. Its speed, however, is
more comparable to a sports car than a
commercial plane; it can fly at 90 kilometers per
hour at sea level and 140 kilometers per hour at
maximum altitude.

Piccard has said that, rather than becoming a
prototype for other solar planes, the Solar Impulse
2 should be a source of inspiration for sustainable
( http://www.emirates247.com/news/emirates/solar-impulse-2-lands-in-uae-where-to-meet-the-pilots-2015-01-09-1.575962 ) design.

Check out this GoPro video of the outside and
interior of the plane:

Author : Zainab Mudallal

URL : http://qz.com/325922/watch-this-
solar-powered-airplanes-first-around-the-world-
flight/

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