(3BL Media/Justmeans) - As if there wasn't enough to see here already at Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, the area was blessed with the appearance of a rare migrating bird, the Solar Impulse, resting up in preparation for a historic journey of truly epic proportions.
The two Swiss pilots, and founders of Solar Impulse, Bertrand Piccard, and Andre Borschberg are getting ready to set out to do what no one has ever done before—to fly around the world, covering 21,000 miles in a heavier than air craft, without using a single drop of fuel, relying entirely on the power of the sun. The plane will fly both day and night using energy stored in batteries to sustain power at night till the sun reappears each morning.
The plane, the Si2, is the second iteration of the Solar Impulse. Its wings, which extend 236 feet, longer than those of a Boeing 747, will be covered with 17,248 monocrystalline silicon solar cells that will provide the power. These cells were specifically developed for this craft, being extra-light, extra-thin (135 microns), highly efficient (23%) and capable of withstanding the necessary extremes in temperature that they will likely encounter.
While the plane is as large as a jumbo jet. it weighs little more than a family car (5,070 pounds), itself a miracle of space age materials. The four electric motors can produce a total of 70 HP, allowing the craft to putter along at a leisurely pace of about 20 miles per hour. This lean operation allows the craft to store enough energy to stay aloft through the night, meaning it could stay aloft indefinitely were it not for the fact that the pilots need to come down for food and drink.
Coming down for a pit stop, is in fact, the only way the pilots can change places since the quarters are so tight they can't switch with the cockpit closed. Each man, will typically be at the helm for 20 consecutive hours, the typical length of each leg.