June 3, 2014
Solar Impulse 1, the first solar aircraft capable of flying at night, set eight world records while crossing two continents in a number of flights from 2009 through 2013. Solar Impulse 2, a new single-seat aircraft, will attempt the first solar flight around the world in 2015. The plan: circle the globe with no fuel. It won’t be nonstop, but hops will last up to five days and nights.
The aircraft’s energy efficiency derives from a wingspan of 72 meters (236 feet) and weight of 2,300 kilograms (5,000 pounds). “Solar Impulse 2 will have virtually unlimited autonomy, and we need to make sure the pilot is as sustainable as his aircraft,” said Solar Impulse partner André Borschberg. “This is why the round-the-world flight will be as much a human as a technological feat.” The plane’s cockpit measures 3.8 cubic meters (5 cubic yards), sufficient to host a pilot for a week at a time, but is neither heated nor pressurized.
The global flight is scheduled to start in March 2015. Solar Impulse will fly over the Arabian Sea, India, Burma, China, the Pacific Ocean, the United States, the Atlantic Ocean and Southern Europe or North Africa before returning to the departure location in the Gulf area. It will land every few days to change pilots at organized public educational events.