It is predicted that by the year 2050, the dominant source of energy will be solar.
Surprised, right? But because that is true, advancements in the field of solar energy are taking place at the speed of light. Solar Impulse 2 is one such advancement – it’s a plane, dependent entirely on solar energy.
#1. The Solar Impuse 2 has over 17,000 solar panels that provide enough energy for travel during daylight. These panels also charge the built-in batteries of the plane that allow travel during the nights.
Given that energy model: theoretically, you can fly the Solar Impulse indefinitely.
#2. The Solar Impulse 2 is on a round-the-world trip during which it will cover over 35,000 kms, stopping at 12 locations around the world.
#3. The plane can seat only one person – the pilot. Swiss pilots Andre Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard will be flying the plane alternatively for a period of over four-five months to complete the mission.
Borschberg is a trained engineer, former air-force pilot and an Internet entrepreneur where as Piccard was the first person to circumnavigate the world, non-stop. Piccard is leading the Solar Impulse mission. It is worth pointing out that Piccard’s father, Jacques Piccard, was the first to reach the deepest place in the ocean in 1960, and his grandfather, Auguste Piccard, was the first person to take a balloon into the stratosphere, in 1931!
#4. Solar Impulse 2 started its journey on March 8 from Abu Dabhi, reaching its first pitstop in Oman 10 hours later. It arrived in Ahmedabad during the wee hours of Wednesday and it will travel to Varanasi a few days later before heading to China.
#5. The wing-span of the plane is larger than that of a Boeing 747, but the plane’s weight is only around that of a family-sized car, approximately 2300 kgs.
For the plane to be fuel-efficient, it is important for it to be lightweight. The body of the plane is designed from a special type of carbon fibre for added lightness.
#6. The plane has a top speed of around 160 kmph. But the pilots will not exceed 100 kmph mark during this trip.
The Solar Impulse 2 can fly up to the altitude of 8,500 metres (that is approximately 28000 feet).
#7. The most challenging leg of the trip will be when the pilot on duty will have to fly from Nanjing in China to Hawaii in the middle of the Pacific. This trip could take up to five days and five nights of continuous flying.
#8. Imagine flying a plane with a brand-new technology, alone for five days! The pilots will be allowed to have only cat naps of up to 20 minutes – for five days!
The plane has several sound-, light- and vibration-based alarm systems in case something unusual happens. For example, if the plane pitches more than five degrees, the pilot’s arm band will vibrate.
In case the pilots get stuck over the oceans, they will bail out and use ocean survival kits until rescuers find them.
#9. In 2013, a smaller sized Solar Impulse 1 made a landmark journey to transit across the United States. But to cover the distance of the world, the advanced Solar Impulse 2 was designed.
#1o. The Solar Impulse looks very much like a glider and compared to a normal airplane, it makes almost no noise because of its electrical engine.
The Solar Impulse 2 may be just a technology-demonstration mission, but it is rather an important one. The success of this mission will make way for several more advancements in the field of solar-powered aviation.
It is truly a great feeling to know that there exists a machine that can fly without consuming any fuel, isn’t it?
Here’s an exciting little video of Solar Impulse 2 landing in Oman. It’s pretty… serene.