Round the world flight using just solar energy
The first round the world flight powered only by solar energy finally touched down in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday morning after a year long trip.
The Solar Impulse plane has flown over 25,000 miles powered only by solar energy. And whilst the aim of the journey was not to create solar powered planes for commercial use, the technology and the journey itself is a huge development in aerospace engineering. Perhaps more impressively the journey highlights the potential of renewable energy and clean technologies.
The aircraft is uniquely powered by 17,248 solar panels, which charge the planes batteries during the day and 4 lithium polymer batteries at night. With a wingspan of 236 feet, the carbon fibre plane weighs about as much as a minivan and whilst currently only a singer seated aircraft there is optimism that this will increase.
The historic mission did face a number of challenges though, particularly towards the end of the journey where turbulence by the hot desert air left the pilot and ground team fighting with the controls. The project which is estimated to have cost more than $100 million dollars, with much of that coming from UAE based Masdar, the Abu Dhabi governments clean energy company, has demonstrated that continued investment into clean technologies is not only viable but essential. Whilst we may not see for some time renewable energy being used across larger commercial flights, the project has shown that there is scope in this carbon guzzling industry to be more energy efficient.