The Solar Impulse made some record-breaking flights, and the improved Solar Impulse 2 will try to fly around the world solely on sun power. That’s a tall order and a daring mission for the Swiss designers, and it could usher in a new era of of high-tech flight.
So far the Solar Impulse has completed an intercontinental flight between Spain and Morocco, as well as a cross-continental flight with its journey from Los Angeles to New York City. In total, the first Solar Impulse plane broke eight world records, all without using a single drop of fossil fuels. But the next challenge is a mighty one, travelling all the way around the world using only solar power.
Designers André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard have unveiled a new design with a massive 263-foot wingspan, the same as a Boeing 747. Yet even with that massive wingspan loaded with more than 17,000 monocrystalline silicon solar cells, and more than 2,000 pounds worth of lithium-ion batteries, the entire plane weighs in at just over 5,000 pounds. This allows the 17.5 horsepower to push the Solar Impulse 2 along at a maximum speed of…35 MPH.
That means that epic journey around the world will take quite some time, requiring Piccard and Borschberg to get comfy in their cozy cabin. Specially-designed seats will serve as both cots, work stations and toilets, and an autopilot system will let the Solar Impulse 2 fly for several hours unmanned. But there won’t be a lot of privacy on this long journey, and in the event of an emergency, a small survival kit and life raft will be the pioneers’ only saving grace.
Here’s hoping they don’t have to use them. Their epic journey begins in March 2015, and will hopefully conclude five months later in July. Want more? Check out some exclusive videos over on our sister site CleanTechnica.
Source | Images: Solar Impulse