There is nothing quite like solar power that flies the renewable energy banner high, and here we are with the Solar Impulse 2 that has the grand goal of circumnavigating around the world using solar energy harnessed from the sun alone, and nothing else. Is it possible? Yes, considering its predecessor, the Solar Impulse, has had quite its fair number of adventures in the past. With the Solar Impulse 2, this unique aircraft intends to take off from the Persian Gulf, before it makes its way over to India and start to go around the world. The only time it will touch down would be to switch pilots.
Just what will the Solar Impulse 2 offer? For starters, this particular aircraft comes with a 236-foot wingspan, and will be covered in 17,238 solar cells. That would mean the Solar Impulse 2 is wider than a 747, but the cockpit has enough space for just one pilot at any one time. The entire shebang is made of carbon fiber and tips the scales at a mere 5,000 pounds, which is a relative lightweight, of course. The engines themselves are 90% more efficient compared to the turbofans that power commercial jets, and expect the Solar Impulse 2 to cruise at an altitude of 28,000 feet to maximize its solar ray intake.
At night, the Solar Impulse 2 will drop down to 16,000 feet at night, with a top speed of 40mph – and the pilots will have to get accustomed to the cramped space for hours, or maybe days at a stretch – without air conditioning or heating to work with. Expect the round-the-world flight to happen sometime between April and July next year. [Press Release]