We’re moving away from gas-powered cars and moving towards automobiles that run on electricity. That’s a definite. So why develop a plane that runs on solar power? Didn’t we try that already with cars and the verdict proved they just weren’t cost-efficient enough?
Solar Impulse 2 aims to be the first plane of its kind to make a trek 360 degrees around the globe, running on solar power in 2015. The plane has a wingspan the size of a Boeing 747 and its prototype has already made trips from San Francisco to New York, reports Singularity Hub. Besides devoting a quarter of its weight to solar storage there is one glaring difference between it and your average airline jet — its top speed is 87 mph. That flight around the world could take awhile.
What the plane lacks in speed it makes up for in weight, only weighing about as much as a van despite its massive wingspan. It’s also incredibly 94% energy efficient, harvesting sunlight with 17,248 paper-thin solar cells that power its flight day or night.
Because of its slower speed flying around the globe will be much different than previous flights, with the flight being split into six different legs. The pilots will have to endure 5 and 6 day flights in a 3.8 cubic meter unpressurized, insulated cabin with outside temperatures varying between +104 °F (+40 °C) and -40 °F (-40 °C). In case anything goes wrong they’ll have a parachute and life raft in addition to their oxygen bottles and week’s worth of food and water. The pilots, Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg are practicing meditation techniques and acclimating their bodies to 20 minute catnaps in order to prepare for the strenuous journey.
It goes without saying that this is obviously a risky and dangerous journey to undertake. Just like Amelia Earhart, Wiley Post and others before them, it’s the spirit of adventure and doing something nobody has ever done before that spurs man to attempt such feats. Godspeed, fellas.