Two pilots hope to make aviation history in the coming weeks by circumnavigating the globe in a plane powered entirely by solar panels. This feat will not only mean going down in history books, but it will also mark a starting point for greener alternatives in aviation.
According to the Associated Press, the plane will have a series of stops along the way, some of them include, India, China and the United States. However, it will start and finish in the Persian Gulf.
The plane itself is designed and manufactured by Solar Impulse. The plane is a unique design that integrates solar panels onto the surface and exterior of the plane, which allows for “perpetual endurance, ability to fly day and night on solar power, without a drop of fuel,” says the company. The wingspan of the plane is also significantly larger than that of a Jumbo Jet, combined with a lightweight build comparable to a small car to make it efficient.
Solar Impulse explains that with a journey such as this there are three main concerns, “1. To build an aircraft capable of flying day and night powered only by solar energy.” They explain this problem was solved by drastically reducing the weight and energy consumption of the plane, through experimentation with material science, energy management and human-machine interfaces.
The second concern is, “flying a solar plane over more than 5 days and 5 nights across the ocean, alone in a 3.8m3 cockpit at the same altitude of a commercial airplane with no pressurized cabin.” There will be two pilots flying the plane taking turns, and the success of the mission relies heavily on their ability to overcome this feat.
The last concern listed by the company was, “operating such an extra-ordinary aircraft.” This aircraft is unprecedented, therefore, any problems and necessary solutions will have to be completely new and innovative.
The flight is scheduled to begin as early as next month, but in the mean-time, check out the video below to see the Solar Impulse 2.