After years of design, complex simulations and test ﬂights with the ﬁrst prototype, Solar Impulse 2 was presented to the public before undertaking, in 2015, the ultimate technological and symbolic adventure of ﬂying around the world without fuel. The ultra-lightweight plane is powered entirely by solar panels and onboard batteries, which charge during the day to allow the plane to fly when the sun goes down.
The single-seater solar aircraft has a huge wingspan of 72 meters (236 ft) for its weight of just 2,300 kg (5’000 lbs.), producing an aerodynamic performance and energy efficiency greater than anything to date. There is a 3.8 m3 cockpit, every detail of which has been designed for a pilot to live there for a week. However, for the sake of maximum energy efficiency, the cabin is not pressurized or heated – a further endurance challenge for the pilot.
To complete the round-the-world flight, Solar Impulse 2 will have to accomplish what no other aircraft has achieved before: flying without fuel with only one pilot for 5 consecutive days and nights over oceans from one continent to another. This is the challenge for which the aircraft has been built.
The attempt to make the first round-the-world solar-powered flight is scheduled to start in March 2015 from Gulf area. Solar Impulse will fly, in order, over the Arabian Sea, India, Burma, China, the Pacific Ocean, the United States, the Atlantic Ocean and Southern Europe or North Africa before closing the loop by returning to the departure point. Landings will be made every few days to change pilots.
Andre Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard in front of the new plane at the unveiling event on 9th April 2014.