World’s First Solar-Powered Plane Completes Round-The-World Trip [Watch]

Credit: NPR
Credit: NPR

History has been made! For the first time, a solar-powered airplane has completed a trip around the world.

As you may remember, the Solar Impulse 2 initially launched from Abu Dhabi on March 9, 2015. It’s been a 17-month-long journey, but on Monday, the plane once again touched down in the Arab Emirates, having covered more than 42,000 kilometers in the span of time.

The inspiring achievement was not without its challenges. In addition to poor weather conditions which delayed the trip and periods of turbulence, the pilots, Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg, had many obstacles to overcome. Thankfully, their perseverance, bravery, and patience paid off, and they arrived Monday evening to the reception of an enamored crowd.

A blog post on the Solar Impulse website states:

“Bertrand Piccard made one last smooth landing, kissing the warm tarmac with his solar airplane after a 48 hour and 37 minute flight in Al Bateen Executive Airport, Abu Dhabi. The solar airplane has now successfully made it full circle around the world, proving that clean technologies can really achieve the impossible.”

The Guardian relays that the Swiss explorers took off from Cairo, Egypt, at 7:28 p.m. EDT on Saturday and landed in Abu Dhabi at 8:05 p.m. EDT on Monday. Upon exiting the plane – which carries more than 17,000 solar cells on its wings – they excitedly hugged before meeting the press.

While Piccard was still en route, he told The Guardian: 

“It is a very, very special moment – it has been 15 years that I am working on this goal. I hope people will understand that it is not just a first in the history of aviation, but also a first in the history of energy.”


He added:

“All the clean technologies we use, they can be used everywhere. So we have flown 40,000km, but now it is up to other people to take it further. It is up to every person in a house to take it further, every head of state, every mayor in a city, every entrepreneur or CEO of a company.

These technologies now can make the world much better and we have to use them, not only for the environment, but also because they are profitable and create jobs.”

Picard shared credit for the achievement with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Swiss President Johann Schneider-Ammann. He also thanked Christiana Figueres, the former Executive Secretary of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Patricia Espinosa, the current Executive Secretary of UNFCCC, for their involvement in the grand endeavor.

Said Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general:

“Solar Impulse has flown more than 40,000 kilometers without fuel, but with an inexhaustible supply of energy and inspiration. This is a historic day for Captain Piccard and the Solar Impulse team, but it is also a historic day for humanity.

You may be ending your around-the-world flight today, but the journey to a more sustainable world is just beginning. The Solar Impulse team is helping to pilot us to that future.”

Between solar-powered airplanes, Tesla cars, and apartment buildings that are overflowing with trees to oxygenate the environment, the future has never seemed so green.

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