In 1924, a team of United States Army Air Service aviators became the first airplane pilots to circumnavigate the globe. It was a pivotal moment in the story of aviation, pushing the boundaries of what airplanes could achieve. Now, nearly a century later, Swiss pilots Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg have embarked upon a similar journey: the first global circumnavigation by a solar-powered airplane.
Mashable reports that Piccard and Borschberg are attempting to fly a solar-powered airplane called the Solar Impulse 2 all the way around the world. The high-tech airplane, equipped with 17,000 solar cells, is powered exclusively by the sun, without fuel.
Piccard and Borschberg initially embarked from Abu Dhabi last spring, but were forced to stop in July for repairs in Hawaii, and only re-embarked this April, flying from Hawaii to San Francisco. Now, the Solar Impulse 2 is in the midst of its flight across the continental United States, on its way from San Francisco to its first stop in Phoenix.
The Solar Impulse team wants to do more than prove that solar powered air travel is viable. Their goal is to illustrate the importance of sustainable technologies, both in the air and on the ground.
“Our ambition for Solar Impulse is for the worlds of exploration and innovation to make a contribution to the cause of renewable energies,” the Solar Impulse manifesto explains. “We want to demonstrate the importance of clean technologies for sustainable development; and to place dreams and emotions back at the heart of scientific adventure.”
Check out the short video below to learn more about the Solar Impulse 2, and visit the Solar Impulse website to follow Piccard and Borschberg’s adventures as they travel around the world.