The Solar Impulse 2 aircraft completed the last leg of its epic round-the-world voyage on Tuesday morning, landing in Abu Dhabi at 4:05 a.m. local time.
After a total of 23 days of flight and 43,041 km travelled in a 17 leg journey that began on March 9 of last year, the solar-powered airplane became the first aircraft to circumnavigate the globe without a single drop of fuel.
"This is not only a first in the history of aviation; it’s before all a first in the history of energy. I’m sure that within 10 years we’ll see electric airplanes transporting 50 passengers on short to medium haul flights," Bertrand Piccard, the Swiss initiator, chairman and pilot of Solar Impulse said upon landing in Abu Dhabi, according to a press release [PDF] .
"But it’s not enough. The same clean technologies used on Solar Impulse could be implemented on the ground in our daily life to divide by two the CO2 emissions in a profitable way. Solar Impulse is only the beginning, now take it further!"
Masdar, a subsidiary of Mubadala Development Co, an Abu Dhabi company specializing in renewable energy, supported the project. Masdar also supported the first-ever solar car race in Abu Dhabi last year.
The airplane flew at a speed of 25 knots (46 kph), with its ground-speed increasing with higher altitude. During the day the plane remained around 28,000 feet and settled around 5,000 feet while flying during the night. Solar batteries, which charged during the day, kept the plane in the air overnight. Over 17,000 solar cells powered the aircraft.
"Solar Impulse is of course very well positioned to contribute to the next generations of manned or unmanned electric aircrafts." Borschberg said. "By capitalizing on the engineering skills and expertise gained over the past decade, we will continue to work to encourage concrete innovations and disruptive solutions."
Borschberg and Piccard have definitely shown that alternative, clean energies are a viable solution in the modern world. If and how these technologies are further implemented on a large scale remains to be seen, but for the two Swiss pilots, they are happy that their message of a clean future has at least traveled around the world.