by Allanah Leahy – EM TV Online
A solar powered aircraft has embarked on a flight around the world.
The aircraft, known as Solar Impulse 2, took off in the early hours of this morning from Abu Dhabi for a trip around the world, which is estimated to last for around five months.
Swiss nationals Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg are piloting the single-cabin, zero-fuel aircraft during the flight. The aircraft is decked out with 17,248 solar cells that power four electric motors. The solar cells are able to store energy from the sun during the day, enabling the Solar Impulse 2 to fly at night.
The journey ahead is daunting; as National Geographic points out, the longest period in which Solar Impulse 2 is airborne will be during its flight over the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. During this period, Piccard and Borschberg will be beyond the reach of runways, islands or easy rescue.
Apart from this, the aircraft will make stops in Oman, India, Myanmar, China, the US, and Southern Europe or North Africa, before it is expected back in Abu Dhabi sometime in July.
Borschberg told the BBC before the aircraft’s take off:
“I am confident we have a very special aeroplane, and it will have to be to get us across the big oceans. We may have to fly for five days and five nights to do that, and it will be a challenge.
“But we have the next two months, as we fly the legs to China, to train and prepare ourselves.”
The pair are permitted only 20 minutes of cat naps and are facing five months in a 3.8 cubic metre cockpit. The support team for the expedition is well drilled, with the central control room based in Monaco and a group of engineers set to follow the plane around the globe.
Solar Impulse 2 was disassembled in Switzerland in November last year. It arrived in Abu Dhabi on January 5th 2015. Its movements throughout the expedition can be tracked here.