An airplane powered entirely by the sun has almost finished its more than year-long, globe-trotting journey.
The single-seat Solar Impulse 2 took off from Seville for Cairo on Monday with pilot Andre Borschberg in the pilot’s seat. The odyssey this time will take the solar-powered plane over a number of airspaces, including Tunisia, Algeria, Malta, Italy, Greece and finally Egypt.
This is the solar-powered plane’s next to last flight before arriving in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates where the trip around the world began in March of 2015. Last month, Swiss aviator Bertrand Piccard was in the cockpit to take the Solar Impulse 2 on one of the most hazardous parts of its worldwide sojourn – a 71-hour flight over the Atlantic Ocean from New York.
Piccard and Borschberg have taken turns solo piloting the aircraft. Borschberg piloted the plane across the Pacific Ocean, from Nagoya, Japan to Hawaii; a 118-hour endeavor. The two pilots have learned meditation and hypnosis as part of their training to help them stay alert for long periods of time.
Piccard and Borschberg say they aim to demonstrate that alternative energy sources and new technologies can achieve what some consider impossible, like flight without fuel.
The carbon fiber Solar Impulse 2 has a 72-meter wingspan, which is longer than the wingspan of a Boeing 747 and weighs about as much as an automobile. The 17,000 solar cells built into the wings harness the sun’s energy and charge onboard batteries.