Travelling the world using solar power is no longer a notion of the past. Swiss pilots Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg are attempting to break world records by becoming the first men to travel around the world in a solar powered aircraft. The Solar Impulse 2 is currently on the 6th leg of its journey having landed in Nanjing China on the 22nd April. It will continue its journey to Hawaii on the 10th of May.
These two pilots don’t just want to travel the world, they want to change it. The purpose of this record breaking flight is to change the way we use energy. The have asked the question “What better way to demonstrate the importance of the pioneering, innovatory spirit than by achieving impossible things with renewable energy and highlighting new solutions for environmental problems?” in an attempt to bring awareness to our ever increasing need for new renewable energy source. The si2 project strives to encourage every person around the world to become pioneers in the fight to preserve our planet and sustain our way of life in an environmentally responsible way.
The si2 is the world’s first solar powered aircraft able to fly day and night without the use of fuel. With a wingspan of 72 meters and a weight of 2,300 kgs, this aircraft has 17,000 solar cells built onto the wings and was designed to recharge during the day allowing the plane to fly during the night without the use of any kind of fuel. The si2 tops out at 87km/h and houses 633kg’s worth of lithium batteries enabling it to fly fuel-free. The building of this aircraft faced a number of technical challenges before being flight ready including the best travel route for maximum solar exposure.
The si2 took off for its first leg from Abu Dhabi on the 9th of March stopping in various cities to rest, restock and spread the message of pioneering environmentally responsible living.
Their last leg from Chongqing to Nanjing, China took 17 hours and 22 minutes where Piccard and Borschberg were confined to a cockpit no bigger than the average sedan, housing their food supply, oxygen and water supply as well as their reclining seats which double as a toilet. The two men practice Yoga and meditation to ensure physical and mental stability throughout 5 to 6 days spent in the cockpit during each leg. According to Andre Borschberg the human challenges of the journey are one of their biggest concerns:
“What is really special, is that it is the first and only airplane in the world which has unlimited endurance. We have an airplane which is fully sustainable in terms of energy, and our challenge now is to make the pilot sustainable as well.” – Andre Borschberg
Both pilots are currently preparing for the 7th leg of the journey which will see them touch down in Hawaii and will see the pilots face their longest leg to date. Enduring 120 hours both men will rely heavily on their large support team to ensure a safe and successful flight. You can follow their full journey on their website as well as keep up to date with all the latest news on their twitter and Facebook pages. You can also find out how you can get involved in changing the world.