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Solar Impulse unveils round-the-world route

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Solar Impulse unveils round-the-world route
Photo: AFP
11:12 CET+01:00
The Swiss Solar Impulse team on Tuesday unveiled the route it plans to take to launch in less than six weeks' time its sun-powered aircraft on a trip around the world.

From a staging point in Abu Dhabi the team’s co-founders and pilots Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg announced a 35,000-kilometre fuel-free itinerary, involving stops in 12 locations.

The large but lightweight aircraft, with four engines powered by electricity from solar panels, is set to take off from the capital of the United Arab Emirates at the end of February or early March, returning by late July or early August.

The route includes stops in Muscat, Oman; Ahmedabad and Varnasi, India; Mandaly, Myanmar; and Chongqing and Nanjing, China, Solar Impulse said.

The Solar Impulse 2 aircraft, the second version of an earlier prototype, will then cross the Pacific Ocean via Hawaii before heading across the US with stops in Phoenix, an undetermined location in the mid west (depending on weather conditions) and New York's JFK airport.

The final legs involve a trip across the Atlantic Ocean with a stopover in southern Europe or North Africa before arriving back in Abu Dhabi, according to the plan.

The Solar Impulse team said the trip would involve 25 flight days spread over five months, with the plane travelling at speeds ranging from 50- to 100 kilometres an hour.

“Solar Impulse is not the first solar airplane, however it is the first able to cross oceans and continents – remaining in the air for several days and nights in a row without landing,” Borschberg, Solar Impulse co-founder and CEO, said in a statement.

“But now we have to ensure the sustainability of the pilot in order to complete the route,” he said.

“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 unpressurized cockpit.”

The flight comes after 12 years of feasibility studies, design, construction and tests in Switzerland, as well as test flights in 2013 across the US and from Switzerland to Morocco in 2012.

The project was launched by Borschberg, a former Swiss Air Force pilot, and Piccard, an adventurer from Lausanne who, with Briton Brian Jones, made the first nonstop hot-air balloon trip around the world in 1999.

It has subsequently received the backing of 80 technology partners, including such Swiss companies as Schindler, ABB, Solvay and Omega, the watch brand, as well as Masdar, Abu Dhabi’s renewable energy company.

The ultimate goal of the mission is to “demonstrate how clean technologies and a pioneering spirit can change the world”. 

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