Under watchful eyes, a solar-powered Swiss airplane took off from the UAE and headed to Muscat, Oman from where it will cross the Arabian Sea to land in Ahmedabad in India as part of its round-the-world journey using zero fuel.
The Solar Impulse 2 (Si2), piloted by Andre Borschberg of Switzerland, took off from UAE’s Al-Bateen airport at 7.12 a.m. Co-pilot Bertrand Piccard will fly the plane, powered by 17.5 horsepower electric motors with rechargeable lithium batteries, from Oman to Ahmedabad, where it will make a stop over on Tuesday.
Piccard and Borschberg will take turns flying the single-seater experimental solar aircraft which can fly with perpetual endurance.
Originally scheduled for take-off on Saturday, the Si2 was delayed due to high winds.
Capable of flying over oceans for several days and nights in a row, the Si2 will travel 35,000 km around the world in 25 days over the course of roughly five months. It will pass over the Arabian Sea, India, Myanmar, China and the Pacific Ocean.
During the 12 scheduled stops, the Solar Impulse team and its partners will organise public events for governments, schools and universities.
After making a landing in Ahmedabad, the aircraft’s founders and pilots Piccard and Borschberg are likely to stay in the city for a couple of days before leaving for Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, a press release said, adding the duo will reach out to governments, NGOs, universities and schools to spread the message of clean technologies.
“We want youth, leaders, organisations and policy makers to understand that what Solar Impulse can achieve in the air, everyone can accomplish here on the ground in their everyday lives. Renewable energy can become an integral part of our lives, and together, we can help save our planet’s natural resources,” Piccard said.
The aircraft is also likely to hover above the Ganga river in Varanasi to spread the message of cleanliness and clean energy.
The ambitious project, supported by Prince Albert of Monaco, UAE’s Minister of State and Chairman of Masdar Sultan bin Ahmed Sultan Al Jaber, English businessman Richard Branson and former US vice president Al Gore, is part of the #FutureIsClean initiative that has been launched to raise awareness about clean technologies.
The Si2 is an airborne laboratory, genuinely made from technological solutions developed by a multi-disciplinary team of 80 specialists and more than a hundred partners and consultants.
It is the largest such aircraft ever built with a weight equivalent to that of a small car. With a wing covered by more than 17,000 solar cells which is greater than that of a Boeing 747, the plane can fly up to an altitude of 8,500 metres at speeds ranging from 50 to 100 km per hour.
The Si2 is the successor to Solar Impulse, a smaller aircraft that notched up a 26-hour flight in 2010, proving its ability to store enough power in the batteries during the day to keep flying at night.