After over 12 years of design and testing and breaking eight world records for flights powered solely by the sun, the circumnavigation of the globe is the latest step towards the team’s efforts to make solar-powered flight a reality.
Swiss innovators Mr Betrand Piccard and Mr Andre Borschberg announced their aircraft; Solar Impulse 2, will land in Mandalay as the fifth stop on their five month itinerary that will commence from the capital of the United Arab Emirates in late February or early March.
Seating just one pilot, Solar Impulse 2 is able to fly at day and night, and will make the journey in stages, landing 12 times along its roughly 35,000 kilometre [22,000 mile] route - including a five-day stretch above the Pacific Ocean.
"Solar Impulse 2 must accomplish what no other plane in the history of aviation has achieved - flying without fuel for five consecutive days and nights with only one pilot in the unpressurised cockpit," said Mr Borschberg, a former Swiss air force pilot and the company's co-founder and chief executive.
|Solar Impulse innovators Mr Andre Borschberg (L) and Mr Bertrand Piccard stand in front of the second version of the their solar-powered aircraft, Solar Impulse 2, at their Mission Control Center in the United States. Photo: Solar Impulse|
The plane is the successor of Solar Impulse, which successfully completed a 26-hour flight in 2010, proving its ability to store enough power in lithium batteries during the day to keep flying at night.
"We want to demonstrate that clean technology and renewable energy can achieve the impossible," said Solar Impulse chairman Mr Piccard. "Renewable energy can become an integral part of our lives, and together we can help save our planet's natural resources."
Its makers claim Solar Impulse 2, to be the most energy efficient aircraft ever built, featuring a wider wingspan than a Boeing 747 it weighs only about as much as a family 4x4 vehicle.
With flight speeds of 50-100 kilometres [30-60 miles] per hour, comparable to a homing pigeon, the entire round-the-world journey is expected to take around 25 days of total flying time across a period of five months.
Limits imposed on the length of any one leg of the flight are largely imposed by how long the pilot can handle the flight and bouts of sleep.
Their planned route includes stops in Muscat, Oman; Ahmedabad and Varanasi in India; Mandalay in Myanmar; and Chongqing and Nanjing in China. After crossing the Pacific Ocean via Hawaii, it will continue across the Continental USA stopping in three locations including Phoenix and New York City, before taking on the Atlantic Ocean to reach a final intermediary somewhere in Southern Europe or Northern Africa and returning to the UAE.