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.
Here’s the plane over Oman: