The first ever round-the-globe mission of Solar Impulse 2 to prove the power of clean solar energy came to a successful end in Abu Dhabi. Here's a look at its eventful journey:
Beginning its journey on March 9 last year in Abu Dhabi, Solar Impulse 2 flew for 505 hours, covering 42,000km in 17 flights with breaks as it crossed Europe, North America, and Asia. The first global fuel-free flight in aviation history, it came to a successful end on July 26.
The most conspicuous thing about Solar Impulse 2 is its 72-metre wide wingspan—greater than the Boeing 747. Made in 2014, it has a single-person cockpit and weighs 2,300kg, one fourth of which is because of the batteries that fuel the plane. It has a length of 22.4m and a height of 6.37m.
Though the aircraft mostly flies at leisurely speeds due to inclement weather, it is capable of flying at a speed of 80kmph and can reach an altitude of 8,500m. The take-off speed is 36kmph.
Source of energy
The solar aircraft runs entirely on electricity generated by 17,248 solar cells fixed on its wings, which, in turn, powers the four electrical motors that rotate the propellers. During night time, the aircraft is powered by four lithium polymer batteries that stores electricity generated during the daytime. It slows down to save power as dusk sets in.
During its historic journey, Solar Impulse 2 was in India for more than week. In its second leg, the crew flew from Muscat and reached Ahmedabad on March 10. In the third leg, from Ahmedabad to Varanasi on March 18, the plane was in Indian skies for 13 hours and 15 minutes. On the same day it left for Myanmar and landed at Mandalay.
Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg, the co-founders of Solar Impulse project, have been working to revolutionise aviation sector for the last 10 years. Both the Swiss pilots took turns in the cramped cockpit during this circumnavigation. Bertrand Piccard flew the plane in the last lap from Cairo to Abu Dhabi for two days and 47 minutes.
Solar Impulse 2 set 19 official aviation records. The longest uninterrupted solo flight record now belongs to Andre Borschberg who flew an 8,924-km flight from Nagoya in Japan to Hawaii for nearly 118 hours (close to five days) in the eighth leg of the journey.