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Solar Impulse 2 starts historic round-the-world flight in March

Steve Dent, @stevetdent
January 21, 2015
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The Solar Impulse 2 team has revealed the route and schedule for its audacious attempt to cross the world powered only by the sun. It'll launch from Abu Dhabi around early March and stop in spots like Chongqing, New York City and Southern Europe before returning to Abu Dhabi. If solar-powered-anything doesn't sound thrilling, let's put things in scale: the 72m (236 foot) aircraft is wider than a Boeing 747, but at 2,300 kilograms (5,000 pounds) weighs less than an SUV. Suffice to say, an aircraft that light won't be terribly comfortable for pilots Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, who will often fly for days at a time in an unheated, unpressurized cockpit.

The gangly craft is capable of flying perpetually, thanks to 17,000 solar panels that charge a 633 kilogram (2,077 pound) lithium battery, which then powers the craft at night. The only thing that prevents a non-stop flight is the crew, which need to restock on supplies and drop off waste materials every few days. With an 88 mph cruise speed, the pilots should arrive back in Abu Dhabi in early August if everything goes to plan. So far, the team has picked up five world records for solar-powered flight, including, ironically, three at night. But as Piccard and Borschberg elaborate in the video below, all of that is just prelude to the round-the-world attempt happening in just over a month.

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