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Solar powered plane takes off on historic round-the-world trip

Solar powered plane takes off on historic round-the-world trip
The Solar Impulse 2 took off from Abu Dhabi this week, beginning its journey around the world in a historic attempt to navigate the world without the use of fossil fuels.
The aircraft will fly for 25 days over a five month period, traveling about 21,700 miles total at speeds of approximately 28 mph, and an altitude of 28,000 feet during the day and 5,000 feet at night.

The Solar Impulse 2 is a larger version of a single-seat prototype that was completed and flew about five years ago.  The wingspan of the aircraft is 236 feet, larger than that of a Boeing 747.  The wings contain 17,248 ultra-efficient solar panels that transfer solar energy to four electrical motors that power the plane's propellers.  The solar cells can also recharge from the four attached lithium polymer batteries.

AndrĂ© Borschberg, controller of the single-seat aircraft, will trade off piloting with Solar Impulse co-founder Bertrand Piccard.  Neither pilot will be able to stand in the cockpit during flight, but the seats recline for stretching and its cushions can be removed for access to the toilet.

"It is also exciting because you know, you simulate, you calculate, you imagine, but there is nothing like testing and doing it in real," Borschberg said just hours before takeoff. "I am sure we are all confident and hopefully we will be able to see each other here in five months."

Anyone curious to see more details about the Solar Impulse 2 can follow the aircraft on Solar Impulse's official website and track its battery status, energy consumption, location, and flight path.  You can also see details such as how much the pilot has slept and how much food and water he has left.


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