Solar Impulse 2 is the first solar-powered plane to make history after completing its first complete round-the-world journey. The plane landed in Abu Dhabi earlier today, according to The Guardian.
As light as an SUV, with a wingspan wider than a Boeing 747 and carrying more than 17,000 solar cells on its surface, Solar Impulse began the circumnavigation in March 2015. The aircraft is the brainchild of a Swiss engineer and a businessman, Piccard and Bertrand Borschberg.
Speaking to The Guardian shortly before landing, Piccard said: “It is a very, very special moment – it has been 15 years that I am working on this goal. I hope people will understand that it is not just a first in the history of aviation, but also a first in the history of energy.”
“All the clean technologies we use, they can be used everywhere. So we have flown 40,000km, but now it is up to other people to take it further. These technologies now can make the world much better and we have to use them, not only for the environment, but also because they are profitable and create jobs”, he added.
As its name suggests, the solar panels charge the plane’s batteries during day, which make up a quarter of the its 2.3 tonne weight. Thus, the aircraft usually flies at about 30mph, although it can go faster if the sun is particularly bright.
The aim of this adventure was, however, not to develop solar-powered planes for commercial, widespread use, but to show the capabilities of renewable energy and encourage people to use it more often.