History was made on Tuesday morning, when a solar-powered aeroplane completed its round the globe flight by landing in Abu Dhabi. The entire journey was powered exclusively by the sun’s energy. The main purpose of this 42,000 km long voyage was to make people aware that the world’s energy needs can be met through the use of renewable sources of energy, including harnessing the sun’s power by means of solar panels. In this way, the world’s rapidly depleting natural resources can be spared and future generations can live better quality lives in a much cleaner world.
To Boldly Go…
Piloted in turns by engineer André Borschber and aeronaut Bertrand Piccard, this Swiss-engineered Solar Impulse 2 plane is powered by a total of 17,248 solar cells which work in order to ensure that as much sunlight as possible is captured. The plane’s wingspan has a 236ft long stretch, slightly wider than that of a Boeing 747. The aircraft’s propellers run on four lithium polymer batteries during night hours. Bear in mind that these batteries are charged with the sun’s energy harnessed by Solar Impulse 2’s panels during the day, so the plane is still technically using only the sun’s power as its fuel source. Surprisingly, Solar Impulse 2 is an extremely lightweight aircraft, weighing around 2.3 tonnes, about the same weight as a mini-van. By contrast, the similarly wingspanned Boeing 747 weighs more than 150 tonnes.
During its 42,000 km long journey, the Solar Impulse 2 plane made stops in several different countries including China, Oman, Spain, Burma, India, Japan, Italy, Egypt and the United States before completing the final leg of its journey and touching down in the United Arab Emirates.
The plane’s 118 hour-long flight over the Pacific Ocean earned Solar Impulse 2 a place in the history books as the longest flight of any aeroplane flying solo over the Pacific. Another unique record which was made by this aircraft during it’s around the world journey was that it became the first ever solar-powered plane to cross the Atlantic Ocean – a feat which took about 70 hours.
As Solar Impulse 2 does not have a fully pressurised cockpit, its pilots were directly influenced by the temperatures of the areas the aircraft passed through. During the more gruelling sections of the journey, such as passing through the hottest parts of the Middle East, the pilots had to wear oxygen masks.
With no room on board to take a walk or do any proper exercise, the seats of this single-seater plane could be reclined so that the pilots could have a stretch in order to keep their blood flow at natural levels and avoid cramps. Removing the cushions over the seats gave the pilots access to a toilet (it wasn’t pretty, but it got the job done!). In terms of security measures, if the plane’s instruments sensed that it was drifting off course or losing altitude, signs that the pilot had fallen asleep, alarms would go off, while special armbands would vibrate in order to wake him up, negating the risk of catastrophe.
The Ushering in of a new Solar-Powered era
Pilots Borschberg and Picard have proven that solar power really is a versatile and forward-thinking means of energy production which has virtually limitless possibilities. Here at Activ8 Energies we would like to extend our utmost congratulations to these two intrepid adventurers. Their relentless endeavour is an inspiration to us all as we continue pushing solar power beyond what convention once thought was its limit.