This morning saw a record-breaking attempt to go around the world in a solar powered plane get underway. The aircraft which is called the Solar Impulse-2 took from Abu Dhabi, heading east to Muscat in Oman. Here’s everything you need to know about the adventure.
1. At 72m, the Solar Impulse-2 has a larger wingspan than a Jumbo Jet (Boeing 747) yet weighs just 2,300 Kg – about the same as a car.
2. There are 17,000 solar cells built into the wings which supply four electric motors (17.5 CV each) with renewable energy.
3. During the day, the solar cells recharge lithium batteries weighing 633 Kg (2077 lbs.) which allow the aircraft to fly at night. Maximum cruising speed is just 55.9 miles per hour – six times slower than a Boeing 787.
4. Two Swiss pilots, Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg, will take turns at the controls during the five month adventure.
5. The pilots will have to stay alert throughout. They will be permitted only catnaps of up to 20 mins in duration.
6. The Solar Impulse team comprises 90 people, including 30 engineers, 25 technicians and 22 mission controllers, supported financially and technologically by over a hundred partners and advisers. Referring to the lack of interest shown by the aviation companies pilot Bertrand Piccard said: “If you want to innovate, you have to go outside the system. It wasn’t the people selling candles who invented the lightbulb.”
7. Conditions in the cockpit are extremely cramped. It measures just 3.8 cubic metres in volume – not that much bigger than a public telephone box.
8. The flight is expected to circle the world in the northern hemisphere; the closest it will get to the equator will be a flyby of Honolulu at 21 degrees North.
9. The legs of the flight crossing the Pacific and Atlantic oceans are the longest and are expected to take about five days each, covering a distance of up to 8,500 kilometres
10. Solar power is predicted to become the dominant source of electricity globally by 2050.
You can read more about the solar powered plane in the graphic below.