Solar Powered Plane Aims to Fly Round the World

The team behind Solar Impulse 1, which flew across America in 5 legs beginning in San Francisco and ending in New York unveiled Solar Impulse 2 on Wednesday and aims to fly round the world beginning in March 2015.

The Solar Impulse 2 has a 236-foot wingspan – longer than a Boeing 747 – and is covered in 17,248 solar cells.  The solar cells will power four electric motors that drive the plane’s propellers.  The plane weighs 5,000 pounds and is capable of flying up to 87 mph.  Maximum cruising altitude will be 27,000 feet.   Batteries make up one quarter of the plane’s weight and will keep the plane flying at night and in cloudy weather.

The plane will be piloted by the two founders of the Solar Impulse project, Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg.  Because the plane only seats one, the plane will make stops along the way to allow the pilots to switch.   The cockpit has been designed to allow the pilot to fully recline during flights lasting from 4 to 6 days.

The anticipated flight path will begin in the Persian Gulf region and fly over the Arabian Sea, India, Burma, China, the Pacific Ocean, the United States, the Atlantic Ocean, southern Europe or North Africa, and back to the starting point in the Persian Gulf.

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