By David Furtado
A solar powered airplane began its 500 hour trip circumnavigating the globe.
Early March 9th the Solar Impulse 2 began its first leg of its journey with a 13 hour trip from Abu Dhabi, 90 minutes south west of Dubai, to Oman, southeast of Saudi Arabia. This 5000 pound plane is powered strictly by solar panels that charge four lithium polymer batteries. These batteries have a 94 percent efficiency rate and spin the rotors at a maximum of 525 revolutions per minute, moving the plane between 20-90 miles per hour with four 17.4 horsepower motors.
This revolutionary plane’s surface is covered by 12,248 solar cells the thickness of a human hair. The plane has an impressive 72 meter wingspan: that’s 3.5 meters more than that of a Boeing 747. Despite its massive wingspan, the cockpit only has the capacity for one pilot and supplies.
The first flight, which could take a commercial airline an hour to fly, took 13 hours for the Solar Impulse 2.
“The flight went really well, everything went as planned,” says a team spokesperson.
Pilot André Borschberg flew the first leg, his partner Bertrand Piccard will take off next. The second stage of the trip started at 7AM Tuesday from Omen, headed on a 20 hour journey to Ahmedabad, India. The trip will take the aircraft to China, Hawaii, and the continental United States, before completing it’s trip back in Abu Dhabi.
The idea isn’t to create commercial airlines powered by solar panels, but to push the boundaries of what is possible.
“When the Apollo astronauts went to the moon, it wasn’t to launch tourism on the moon and open hotels and make money,” Piccard said. “It was to inspire the world.”