Solar Impulse Plane Starts Epic Global Flight

Swiss explorers Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg have launched their attempt to fly around the world in a solar powered aircraft.

The Solar Impulse aircraft took-off Monday morning to start the first stage of the round the world flight using zero fuel. Piccard will take the reins in Oman and continue onward to India. Co-pilots Piccard and Borschberg will take turns flying the single-seater solar aircraft which is able to fly with perpetual endurance.

The Solar Impulse is the largest aircraft ever built with such a low weight, equivalent to that of a small car. For maximum efficiency carbon fibre and honeycomb sandwich were used in the construction of the airframe while 140 carbon fibre ribs spaced at 50 cm intervals give the wing its aerodynamic cross-section, and also maintain its rigidity. With a wing covered by more than 17,000 solar cells greater than a Boeing 747, the plane can fly up to an altitude of 8,500 metres at speeds ranging from 50 to 100 km/h.

Capable of flying over oceans for several days and nights in a row, Solar Impulse will travel 35,000 kilometres around the world in 25 days over the course of roughly 5 months. Once the plane crosses the Atlantic Ocean, the final leg includes a stop-over in Southern Europe or North Africa before completing the flight at its final stop in Abu Dhabi.

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