FFF: Solar-Powered Plane Attempts to Fly Around the World

The future of air travel may be closer than we think, and we have an update on our earlier Solar Impulse 2 post. Last week, the experimental aircraft known as Solar Impulse 2 continued its attempt to fly around the world—fueled entirely by solar power.

Photo credit: solar-impulse.com
Photo credit: solar-impulse.com

Flown and financed by Swiss businessman and pilot André Borschberg, Solar Impulse 2 is two-months into its quest to become the first solar-powered plane to circumnavigate the world. The plane is manned by Borschberg and fellow Swiss pilot Bertrand Piccard. They are accompanied by a 60-person support team.

Solar Impulse 2 is a single-seater aircraft containing 17,000 solar cells built into a massive 72-meter wingspan, and weighs in at a mere 2,300kg. (For some perspective, a Boeing 747 has a 60-meter wingspan and weighs roughly 440,000kg.)

While the aircraft is still dependent on appropriate weather during flight, it is capable of flying during the night. During the day, the solar cells recharge the plane’s lithium batteries, allowing it to soar through the dark without any problems.

The main characteristic that keeps this plane airborne is actually its weight. Because it is so light, it propels forward with ease. Unfortunately, this means that it is highly unlikely your next commercial flight will be powered by the sun.

Due to inclement weather over the Pacific Ocean, Solar Impulse 2 made an unscheduled stop in Japan. The team hopes to finish crossing the Pacific Ocean and North America soon, and be well on its way over the Atlantic before hurricane season peaks in August.

Read more about the Solar Impulse 2 and its historic journey here.

Happy Travels!

-The Terminal

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