Solar Impulse 2 is an aeroplane that is designed to fly with nothing more than energy converted from light via the Sun. It uses 17,000 photovoltaic panels to collect sunlight and charge its onboard batteries, as well as run its electrical engines.
The spectacular aircraft, which holds only one passenger (the pilot), is now en-route to Cairo, Egypt in the next leg of its journey. If everything goes well, the flight should only take between 48 and 72 hours to complete, depending on the speeds and weather conditions.
Image Credit: Solar Impulse/BBC
Originating from the United Arab Emirates, the aeroplane has almost made it around the globe. There were some delays between last and this year, as the plane was stranded in Hawaii to fix some electrical faults, but after the winter months subsided, Solar Impulse 2 went right back into action, flying into the contiguous United States and beyond.
Just last month, Solar Impulse crossed the Atlantic Ocean on nothing more than solar power. It cruised from New York City, all the way to Seville, Spain. It was a long flight, as the aeroplane can only move at a maximum speed of 60 miles per hour during the day at 30 miles per hour during the night.
These speed limitations are a direct result of Sunlight being available to power both the motors and the batteries during the day, but only the batteries during the night, so the slower speed at night slurps less power from the batteries that store the energy collected from the sunlight during the day.
After this trip, Solar Impulse 2 won’t be far from home. It’s believed that this will be the second to last trip before Solar Impulse 2 reaches its place of origin in Abu Dhabi and can land once and for all, completing its around-the-globe journey.
Solar Impulse 2 does not aim to prove that solar power is a viable energy source for flying an airplane. In fact, it probably isn’t, because airplanes need a lot of thrust to stay in the air, especially with a full load of passengers.
Rather, the Solar Impulse team’s main goal is to prove that solar power is a useful resource for energy, and that more of the world should tap into this green-friendly energy source rather than other energy sources that have dire consequences for our planet.
We’ll continue to keep you updated on Solar Impulse as the team progresses through its mission.