A solar-powered aircraft will attempt an unprecedented flight around the world next month, seeking to prove that flying is possible without using fossil fuel.
On its five-month, 22,000 miles journey, the plane’s four engines will be powered only by solar energy.
The two Swiss pilots will take turns at the controls in the tiny cabin for five consecutive days and nights in the air.
The Solar Impulse 2 is set to take off from Abu Dhabi with stop-overs in India, Burma and China before crossing the Pacific Ocean and flying across the United States and southern Europe to arrive back in Abu Dhabi.
“Miracles can be achieved with renewables such as solar power. We want to show we can fly day and night in an aircraft without a drop of fuel,” Bertrand Piccard, one of the pilots and the project co-founder, said at the World Future Energy event in Abu Dhabi.
The plane, which has the weight of a family car and a wingspan equal to that of a Boeing 747 jet and fitted with solar panels, is due take off in late February and return by late July. Its journey will span approximately 25 flight days at speeds between 30-60 miles per hour.
Feasibility studies, design and construction have taken 12 years, said Andre Borschberg, the second pilot and co-founder. “It is not the first solar airplane, however it is the first able to cross oceans and continents,” he said.
Piccard said of the challenge: “It is simply the unknown. It is a question of technical reliability, of human weather and it is the challenge of discovery.”