First Round-the-World Solar Flight

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  • Published: 30 July 2016
  • Copyright: Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA
  • Source / Publisher: Solar Impulse
thumbnail image: First Round-the-World Solar Flight

For the first time a solar-powered plane has circled the globe. On July 26, 2016, pilot Bertrand Piccard landed with the Solar Impulse 2 in Abu Dhabi. Form here the historic flight began in March 2015. The record flight was undertaken to demonstrate that flying without kerosene is possible and to promote alternative technologies. It showed that flying through several consecutive days and nights to cross oceans without using any fuel is possible. New kinds of technology had to be optimized and energy consumption drastically reduced, to achieve this.

The single-seat solar airplane Solar Impulse 2 flies solely with the power of the sun. It has 17,248 solar cells on its 72 m wingspan, which drive the four motors and feed electricity in batteries for night flying. Maximum altitude was 28,000 feet, average airspeed 75 km/h, and maximum recorded ground speed 216 km/h. The components normally used in aircraft construction were far too heavy for Solar Impulse. For weight reasons, the cockpit is designed for only one person. The
two pilots, Bertrand Piccard and AndrĂ© Borschberg, took turns on the flight deck during the around-the-world journey.

"To fly a distance with a completely new type of aircraft is difficult", pilot Borschberg said. "But to fly around the world is a real challenge. However, it confirms that the technology is reliable." The pilots think that already in ten years electronic aircrafts could be used for short distances and up to 50 passengers.


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