The world’s first round-the-world flight powered solely by the sun’s energy made history on Tuesday as it landed in Abu Dhabi, where it first took off on an epic 40,000-kilometer journey that began more than a year ago. Since its March 2015 takeoff, the Swiss-engineered Solar Impulse 2 made 16 stops across the world without using a drop of fuel to demonstrate that using the plane’s clean technologies on the ground can halve the world’s energy consumption, save natural resources and improve quality of life.
“Our mission now is to continue to motivate people, corporations and governments to use these same solutions on the ground wherever they make sense,” Solar Impulse chairman and pilot, Bertrand Piccard, said in a statement ahead of landing the plane in Abu Dhabi. The aircraft is uniquely powered by 17,248 solar cells that transfer energy to four electrical motors that power the plane’s propellers. It runs on four lithium polymer batteries at night. The plane’s wingspan stretches 236 feet (72 meters) to catch the sun’s energy.
Over its entire mission, Solar Impluse 2 completed more than 500 flight hours, cruising at an average speed of between 28mph (45 kmh) and 56mph (90 kmh). It made stops in Oman, India, Myanmar, China, Japan, the US, Spain, Italy, Egypt and the UAE. Its North American stops included California, Arizona, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.
In a statement this week, Borschberg said it is no longer a question of whether it’s possible to fly without fuel or polluting emissions. “By flying around the world thanks to renewable energy and clean technologies, we have demonstrated that we can now make our world more energy efficient,” he said.
The project is estimated to cost more than $100 million. The UAE-based Masdar, the Abu Dhabi government’s clean-energy company, was the main sponsor of the flight.