In around two months, the team behind the solar-powered aircraft Solar Impulse 2 will attempt the first ever around-the-world flight powered only by sunlight. After unveiling the Solar Impulse 2 last April, the Solar Impulse team announced today a timeline and route for the flight, which will launch in late February or early March.
After taking off in Abu Dhabi, the Solar Impulse 2 will make stops in Oman, India, Myanmar, China, the US, and Southern Europe or North Africa before landing back in Abu Dhabi sometime in August.
17,248 solar cells power four 17.4-horsepower electric motors
But it won't be easy. The Solar Impulse 2 has a 236-foot wingspan covered in 17,248 solar cells that power four 17.4-horsepower electric motors, but altogether it weighs just 5,000 pounds — less than an adult hippopotamus. The single-pilot cockpit is unheated and unpressurized, which means it will be more than a little uncomfortable for Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, the team who will share piloting duties on the multi-leg journey.
Piccard and Borschberg have been with Solar Impluse from the beginning (Piccard is the president of Solar Impulse and Borschberg is the co-founder and CEO), and hold eight world records for flight, including the first solar-powered flight across the US in 2013 in the original Solar Impulse.
The Solar Impulse 2's across-the-world flight should clock 500 hours total flight time and around 21,748 miles.