Solar Impulse 2, a solar-powered airplane, takes flight as it begins its historic round-the-world journey from Al Bateen Airport in Abu Dhabi on March 9, 2015.
Solar Impulse 2, a solar-powered airplane, takes flight as it begins its historic round-the-world journey from Al Bateen Airport in Abu Dhabi on March 9, 2015.  Jean Revillard—Getty Images

The First Solar-Powered Round-the-World Flight Has Begun

Mar 09, 2015

The world's first round-the-world trip on a solar-powered plane got under way Monday with the initial leg from Abu Dhabi to the Omani capital, Muscat.

Swiss pilots Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg will pursue a record-shattering five-month journey, spanning 21,750 miles across several continents and two oceans, while using zero conventional fuel.

The Solar Impulse-2's lightweight construction — weighing a mere 4,600 lb. — combined with its 236-ft. wingspan lined with 17,000 solar cells, makes it the first solar-powered aircraft capable of flying during both day and night.

Meet the Solar-Powered Plane That Will Fly Around the World

The Solar Impulse 2, a solar-powered plane, flies over the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi during preparations for next month's round-the-world flight on Feb. 26, 2015.
The Solar Impulse 2, a solar-powered plane, flies over the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi during preparations for next month's round-the-world flight on Feb. 26, 2015.Solar Impulse/Revillard/Rezo.ch/Reuters
The Solar Impulse 2, a solar-powered plane, flies over the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi during preparations for next month's round-the-world flight on Feb. 26, 2015.
Solar Impulse 2 flies over the Emirati capital Abu Dhabi on Feb. 26, 2015 ahead of a planned round-the-world tour to promote alternative energy.
Solar Impulse 2, the second in a series of solar powered planes created by Swiss pioneers Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg, is due to make the first round-the-world solar flight in 2015.
German test pilot Markus Scherdel prepares for take-off in the solar-powered Solar Impulse 2 aircraft on its maiden flight at its base in Payerne June 2, 2014.
Solar Impulse 2 takes off during its maiden flight from Payerne on June 2, 2014.
German test pilot Markus Scherdel steers Solar Impulse 2 on its maiden flight from its base in Payerne on June 2, 2014.
German test pilot Markus Scherdel steers Solar Impulse 2 on its maiden flight from its base in Payerne on June 2, 2014.
From left: Solar Impulse co-founder Bertrand Piccard congratulates German test pilot Markus Scherdel after Solar Impulse 2's maiden flight from Payerne on June 2, 2014.
Solar Impulse's HB-SIA prototype, which preceded Solar Impulse 2, is reassembled on April 5, 2013 after arriving from Switzerland. The aircraft flew across America in stages over May to July from San Francisco to Washington D.C. and New York City.
Solar Impulse's HB-SIA prototype is being reassembled after arriving from Switzerland on board a Boeing 747 cargo plane.
Seven years of intensive work, calculations and tests by a team of 70 people and 80 partners contributed to producing the carbon fiber airplane.
By day the solar cells recharge the 400kg lithium batteries allowing the plane to fly at night.
Swiss pilot Bertrand Piccard testing equipment of Solar Impulse HB-SIA on April 1, 2013 in Moffett, Calif.
Solar Impulse's HB-SIA prototype is getting prepared for its 6th test flight from Moffett Airfield at the Ames Research Center of NASA after being reassembled, April 23, 2013, in Mountain View, Calif.
Components of the revolutionary carbon fiber aircraft as it is reassembled after arriving from Switzerland on board a Boeing 747 cargo plane in Mountain View, Calif.
Components of the revolutionary carbon fiber aircraft as it is reassembled.
Solar Impulse's HB-SIA prototype is being reassembled after arriving from Switzerland on board a Boeing 747 cargo plane in Mountain View, Calif.
The 12,000 solar cells integrated into the wing supply four electric motors with renewable energy and charge the 400kg lithium polymer batteries during the day, enabling the aircraft to fly at night.
Solar Impulse's HB-SIA prototype is being reassembled after arriving from Switzerland on board a Boeing 747 cargo plane in Mountain View, Calif.
The pilot Bertrand Piccard, initiator and President of the Solar Impulse project, will be flying over the San Francisco Bay area and pass over the Golden Gate Bridge.
The Solar Impulse's HB-SIA prototype makes its 3rd test flight from Moffett Field at the Ames Research Center of NASA after being reassembled.
Solar Impulse's HB-SIA prototype makes its 6th test flight from Moffett Airfield at the Ames Research Center of NASA after being reassembled.
Solar Impulse's HB-SIA prototype flies over the San Francisco Bay, April 23, 2013.
Solar Impulse' s HB-SIA prototype soars above the clouds over the San Francisco Bay, April 23, 2013.
Solar Impulse' s HB-SIA prototype flies over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, April 23, 2013.
Solar Impulse takes off on its final leg of its flight across the USA from Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Va., July 6, 2013.
Solar Impulse, with Andre Borschberg onboard, approaches JFK airport on late July 6, 2013 in New York. The experimental Solar Impulse plane, powered by the sun, completed a transcontinental trip across the United States late Saturday, touching down in New York despite a rip in the fabric of one wing.
Solar Impulse lands at Kennedy airport. The solar-powered airplane of Swiss pioneers Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg completed the final leg of the Across America campaign, flying from Dulles to New York's Kennedy airport.
A tear in the wing fabric of the Solar Impulse airplane following landing at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, July 6, 2013.
Pilots and founders Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg, right, wave to the crowd after Solar Impulse lands at JFK airport in New York July 6, 2013. The airplane entirely powered by the sun touched down in New York City late on Saturday, completing the final leg of an epic journey across the United States that began over two months ago.
The Solar Impulse 2, a solar-powered plane, flies over the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi during preparations fo
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"I am confident we have a very special airplane, and it will have to be to get us across the big oceans," Borschberg told the BBC.

The pilots have undergone rigorous preparation drills, and will forgo all sleep longer than 20 minutes while airborne, practicing yoga and self-hypnosis to cope with their airborne ordeal. (Some stints will involve flying continuously for five days.) Rest stops will be spent advocating for their clean-technology campaign.

"I had this dream 16 years ago of flying around the world without fuel, just on solar power," said Piccard. "Now we're about to do it."

[BBC]

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