Is The Solar Powered Plane The Future Of Travel?

Solar Impulse 2, a solar powered plane, recently completed its third test flight in the United Arab Emirates on Monday, in preparation for an around-the-world tour to promote the use of alternative energy.

According to the mission chief, the pilot did not find any problem during the test flight, which took place at the Al-Bateen airport in Abu Dhabi for an hour. The two previous test flights were also conducted in Al-Bateen.

This new technology of air transportation is the result of 13 years of hard work by two Swiss pilots, Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg. Although the idea was initially mocked by the aviation industry, their efforts have now proved to be fruitful. According to Piccard, “clean technology and renewable energy can achieve the impossible.”

More than 17,000 solar cells are built into the wings of Solar Impulse 2 in order to power it. The wings stretch at 72 meters and are almost as long as those of an Airbus A380 superjumbo. At only 2.3 tons, the carbon-fiber suited aircraft also weighs less than 1 percent the weight of A380 .

From Abu Dhabi, the plane will head to Muscat in the neighboring Gulf sultanate of Oman, before crossing the Arabian Sea to India. Afterwards, it will head to Myanmar, China, Hawaii, and New York.

Landings for the plane are reserved for the U.S. Midwest and, depending on the weather conditions, in either southern Europe or North Africa.

The plane’s predecessor, the Solar Impulse, was a smaller version of Solar Impulse 2, which stored power in lithium batteries during the day in order to continue its journey at nighttime. Solar Impulse 2, on the other hand, will opt to fly at slower speed at night and will travel at speeds of between 50 and 100 kph to keep the batteries from draining too quickly.

Organizers for the around-the-world tour anticipate that the plane will be able to begin its voyage as early as Saturday, though its launch will depend on how the weather turns out.

A control center in Monaco will be linked to the pilot and the plane is scheduled to return to Abu Dhabi in July.