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The solar powered plane trying to fly around the world

While the rest of the world news is pretty depressing, as per, something rather uplifting is happening about 15,000 feet above our heads. A solar-powered plane is flying all the way around the world, using absolutely no fuel at all.

The Solar Impulse 2 began its journey in Abu Dhabi on Monday 9 March, and its 35,000 km trip is expected to take about five months (yes, five months; it’ll travel at similar speeds to a passenger car). Pilots Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg, both Swiss, will take turns manning the plane. 

Here are the Solar Impulse 2’s specs, for the aviation enthusiasts among you:

  • It’s equipped with 17,248 solar panels on its wings;
  • It has a top speed of 43 miles an hour (it travels even slower at night to conserve energy);
  • Energy is then stored in four lithium-iron batteries;
  • The plane has a wingspan of 72 metres; around 10m wider than a Boeing 747 or 777;
  • It only weighs about 5,000 pounds, roughly the same as a car.

If it succeeds, this will be the first fuelless flight around the world. Whether the technology will make its way onto passenger jets is another question, however: this model’s success relies on its incredibly low weight. It would be quite a bit heavier if you added a load of tourists heading for Malaga.

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Here’s the plane over Oman:

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