Solar Impulse 2 leaves Abu Dhabi for record-breaking global flight
This morning, at 07:12am UAE time, the Solar Impulse 2 took off for its first flight from Abu Dhabi at Al Bateen Executive Airport in the United Arab Emirates, to Muscat International Airport in the Sultanate of Oman.
Solar Impulse co-founder André Borschberg will take turns to pilot the one-seater solar-powered plane with Bertrand Piccard. Borschberg will fly the zero-fuel airplane on about 400km (215NM) for an estimated time of 12 hours.
The record-breaking attempt will encompass 21,747 miles (35,000km) over 12 legs, including gruelling five to six-day stints across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The journey, which marks the world's first ever attempt to circumnavigate the Earth without fossil fuels will take around five months in total.
The daredevil pilots will endure approximately 250 hours each inside an extremely narrow cockpit, with no oxygen or temperature control, the temperatures outside will range from -40C-40C. The two men will survive off of 20-minute naps every two to four hours, and will practice yoga to alleviate the discomfort of being seated in such a confined space, for such great lengths of time. Borschberg noted that the biggest challenge they face is maintaining concentration.
Psychiatrist and co-pilot Piccard, who was part of the 1999 team to first circumnavigate the Earth in a balloon, has studied and taught himself and Borschberg self-hypnosis and meditation methods to help with concentration.
"Time is not so important anymore," said Borschberg. "You have plenty of time and the only way to cope with this duration is to be in the present moment. If you start thinking about how many hours left until you get to the destination you get crazy. So the only way is to be present... In some ways it's almost a spiritual experience that we are going through."
"I had this dream 16 years ago of flying around the world without fuel, just on solar power. Now, we're about to do it. The passion is there and I look forward so much to being in the cockpit." Piccard added.
The Solar Impulse 2 weighs the same as a Volvo Sedan and moves at similar speeds. The cockpit is slightly bigger than the average car, and features a reclining pilot's seat that triples as bed, chair and toilet. The plane's wings (which are wider than a Boeing 747's) feature 17,000 solar panels, allowing it to be powered by the sun during the day, whilst a 633kg bank of lithium batteries allows it to carry on during the night.
The hopes are that the Solar Impulse project will be the first steps towards a zero-carbon jumbo in the future.
Shortly before the Solar Impulse 2 set off on its record-breaking journey from Abu Dhabi this morning, the team, H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco, His Excellency Dr. Sultan Al Jaber of the UAE, and Richard Branson joined Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, pilots and co-founders of Solar Impulse to launch the #FutureIsClean movement to gather worldwide support for the use of clean energy.
Solar Impulse's official Internet and technology partner, Google, helped to create the futureisclean.org platform which aims to inspire people, businesses, celebrities, and politicians to confront climate change at the upcoming 'Conference of the Parties' in Paris (COP21). Visitors to the site are encouraged to declare "I want concrete solutions for a clean future" and share with their various social media networks.