Abu Dhabi, capital city of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), will be the start and finish of the first solar-powered flight around the world, which co-founders and pilots, Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg are planning to undertake in March 2015 with Solar Impulse 2.
The announcement was made in New York during the United Arab Emirates reception held on the sidelines of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly. In attendance were Didier Burkhalter, President of the Swiss Confédération, and His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nayhan, UAE Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Masdar, Abu Dhabi’s renewable energy company, is the host partner of Solar Impulse. The team will be hosted by Masdar and Abu Dhabi for two months at the start of January for testing and training before the start of the first round-the-world solar flight, which is due to take place in March 2015.
Masdar has been tasked by the UAE government with investing in and advancing the renewable energy and clean technology industry both domestically and internationally.
H. E. Dr. Sultan Ahmad Al Jaber, UAE minister of state and chairman of Masdar said: “Abu Dhabi, Masdar and Solar Impulse have in common a pioneering spirit, a long-term vision and a desire to explore new horizons. We share a commitment to foster the development of technological advances in alternative energy sources in order to contribute to a cleaner, more sustainable future.”
The arrival of Solar Impulse 2, in Abu Dhabi, will act as a local and regional catalyst and leave a lasting legacy, inspiring Emirati youth to take an interest in aeronautics, science, clean technology and renewable energy. During Solar Impulse 2’s stay, school visits and educational workshops will be held, during which students and others will be able to learn about the cutting-edge technologies designed to make the round-the-world flight possible.
The choice of Abu Dhabi to host the start and end of the history-making flight reinforces the Emirate’s status as a pioneer in solar energy innovation and as a global leader in the drive to develop and deploy effective clean energy solutions that meet the needs of people, while at the same time minimizing long-term effects on the planet.
The relationship between Masdar and Solar Impulse, which started in 2003, stems from a shared perspective between the UAE leadership and the Solar Impulse founders, Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, to promote greater technological innovation as well as help encourage other nations and organizations to embrace cleaner and more efficient technologies.
“This well-matched partnership will showcase Abu Dhabi as a centre of expertise when it comes to renewable energy and at the same time Solar Impulse will demonstrate the far-reaching applications of clean energy during the first solar-powered flight around the world,” declared Bertrand Piccard. André Borschberg continued: “We have chosen this location as being the best and most suitable departure and return point for the round-the-world tour, due to its climate, infrastructure and commitment to clean technologies.”
The round-the-world tour is expected to take 25 flying days over 4 or 5 months. Solar Impulse is currently finalizing the stages after Abu Dhabi, and looks to make stopovers in Asia, the United States and in Southern Europe or North Africa, before returning to Abu Dhabi in July 2015. Some flights over the Pacific and the Atlantic will last 5 to 6 days, a feat made possible by Solar Impulse 2’s ability to fly without fuel.
On its circumnavigation of the globe, Swiss pilots and co-founders of the project, Dr. Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg, will take turns flying the aircraft, which completed its first test flight in June. They’ll have six oxygen bottles, a parachute, a life raft, and food and water for a week. Solar Impulse 2 made its maiden flight on June 2. Since then it has completed 11 successful test flights. The plane’s predecessor, Solar Impulse 1, became the first solar airplane ever to fly through the night. The plane undertooksuccessful solar-powered flights from Switzerland to Spain and Morocco as its first inter-continental flight, and conducted a multi-stage flight across the USA in 2013. Solar Impulse 1 is credited with eight Fédération Aéronautique Internationale world records, including absolute height: 9235 m (30300 ft); duration: 26 hours, 10 minutes, 19 seconds and free distance: 1506.5 km (936 miles).
Piccard and Borschberg founded the Solar Impulse project in November 2003 after undertaking a feasibility study in partnership with the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. By 2009, they had assembled a multi-disciplinary team of 80 specialists from different countries, assisted by about 100 outside advisers. The project is financed by a number of partner companies and individuals.
Solar Impulse 2 has been built for the round-the-world flight. It has a wider wingspan, more efficient engines, an improved single person cabin, and is made from lighter materials than its predecessor. The aircraft’s wings are 72 metres wide, larger than those on a Boeing 747, and have been fitted with more than 17,000 solar cells that convert sunlight into electricity to power its four engines. Consequently, the whole aeroplane weighs just 2,300 kg, about the same as a family car.
Solar Impulse 2 will be delivered to Abu Dhabi from the Payerne aerodrome in Switzerland towards the end of the year and will be showcased during the World Future Energy Summit as part of the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, which is hosted by Masdar between 17 and 22 January 2015.