Solar Impulse is changing the way we think about aviation and use solar-powered technology. The organization's co-founders and pilots – Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg – developed the idea and construction behind a plane that's completely powered by the sun. The challenge? To get the plane to fly throughout the day and night without relying on fuel.
After more than 10 years of research, the team brought its co-founders' vision to life by creating the Solar Impulse 2 plane. It's the largest aircraft ever built – with the same wingspan as a Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet – and only weighs as much as a family car, according to the Solar Impulse website. Also, the aircraft has built-in lightweight and energy-efficient technologies, including more than 17,000 solar cells, energy-dense batteries and LED lights. Although the Solar Impulse 2 isn't the first plane to be powered by solar energy, it's the first to successfully achieve a solar flight around the world.
The journey around the world
In March 2015, the plane took off with plans to fly almost 25,000 miles around the world from and back to Abu Dhabi, the aircraft's designated "arrival and departure city." The journey involved 17 destinations and stopped in international and domestic locations such as Seville, Spain; Cairo, Egypt; San Francisco, and New York. Pilots Piccard and Borschberg could spend up to five days in the plane due to flight conditions, but would land to alternate shifts with one another. A Guardian article reported that the plane's longest uninterrupted flight totaled approximately 4,000 miles, taking off from Japan and landing in Hawaii. Also, Solar Impulse 2 is the first aircraft of its kind to successfully cross both Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
The Solar Impulse 2 completed its journey around the world in July 2016, all with the help of its many team members and, of course, renewable energy!
Next steps for Solar Impulse
The team's accomplishments show how clean energy and technology can work together to help reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and contribute to energy conservation. Want to know what’s next for Solar Impulse? To learn more about upcoming initiatives, you can sign up for email updates on the Solar Impulse site or head to the organization's blog.