The world’s first round-the-world flight to be powered solely by the sun’s energy was completed on Tuesday, as the Solar Impulse 2 landed in Abu Dhabi, where it first took off for an epic 25,000-mile journey that began more than a year ago.
Since its March 2015 take off, the Swiss-engineered Solar Impulse 2 has made 16 stops across the world without using a drop of fuel to demonstrate that using the plane’s clean technologies on the ground can halve the world’s energy consumption, save natural resources and improve quality of life.
The pilots of the Solar Impulse 2 have described their year-long attempt to fly around the world powered solely by the sun as the “definition of adventure.”
After landing the plane, pilot Bertrand Piccard was greeted outside the cockpit by his Solar Impulse partner and fellow pilot Andre Borschberg. They hugged and pumped their fists in the air.
“The future is clean. The future is you. The future is now. Let’s take it further,” Mr Piccard said, speaking through a microphone to a round of applause and cheers from a crowd that included Prince Albert of Monaco.
The aircraft is uniquely powered by 17,248 solar cells, which transfer energy to four electrical motors that power the plane’s propellers. It runs on four lithium polymer batteries at night. The plane’s wingspan stretches 236 feet to catch the sun’s energy.
At around 5,070 pounds, the plane weighs about as much as a minivan or mid-sized truck. An empty Boeing 747, in comparison, weighs 400,000 pounds. To help steady it during takeoffs and landings, the plane was guided by runners and bicyclists.
Despite its historic mission, the Solar Impluse 2’s journey was far from quick or problem-free.
The pilots faced a nine-month delay a year ago after the plane’s batteries were damaged during a flight from Japan to Hawaii. It was also delayed for more than a week in Cairo ahead of its final flight to Abu Dhabi when Mr Piccard fell ill, and due to poor weather conditions.
Over its entire mission, Solar Impluse 2 completed more than 500 flight hours, cruising at an average speed of between 28 mph and 56 mph. It made stops in Oman, India, Myanmar, China, Japan, the US, Spain, Italy, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. Its North American stops included California, Arizona, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.