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Aviation reaches milestone as Solar Impulse II makes final landing

The Solar Impulse II aircraft has successfully completed its annual flight around the world, fuelled solely by the sun.

Having started its solar-powered flight in March last year, the aircraft has travelled over 35,000km across the globe using an estimated 11,655kWh of solar energy and has made its final stop in Abu Dhabi this morning.

Solar Impulse II makes history

With flying speeds of around 50-100kms (30-60 miles) per hour, the journey for Solar Impulse II (Si2), which was expected to take five months from take-off, flying over the Pacific Ocean and making regular stops along the route, which has been 12 years in the planning.

[quote]Bertrand Piccard, chairman of Solar Impulse and pilot said at the time of the first leg of the journey: “We want to demonstrate that clean technology and renewable energy can achieve the impossible.”

“Renewable energy can become an integral part of our lives, and together we can help save our planet’s natural resources.”

The first leg of the Journey in March 2015, was flown by Swiss pilot and co-founder of long-range solar-powered aircraft project Solar Impulse, Andre Borschberg, who flew for 12 hours before landing at the first stop in Muscat in the Sultanate of Oman.

Innovative technology

Designed out of carbon fibre, the Si2 has wings that are larger than a Boeing 747 yet weighs about the same as a 4×4 motor vehicle. The wings of the plane have 17,249 solar cells, which power four electric engines in addition to the rechargeable lithium batteries.

The Solar Impulse II also has four 17-horsepower electric motors that propel the plane through the air.

The system was designed to carry the plane for a full seven days and nights without stopping during the first flight. The plane ascended to heights of 28,000 feet by day and descended to 5,000 feet by night to ensure that optimal energy efficiency was met.

The cockpit is fitted with a single seat, which reclines for the pilot to rest, as well as having a built-in toilet. There are oxygen, food and water reserves on board.


Image credit: Solar Impulse

Ashley Theron
Ashley Theron-Ord is based in Cape Town, South Africa at Clarion Events-Africa. She is the Senior Content Producer across media brands including ESI Africa, Smart Energy International, Power Engineering International and Mining Review Africa.