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Aviation adventure Solar Impulse keeps on soaring

With several world records under its belt already, the Solar Impulse team is hoping to make history again by flying around the world solely on solar power.

Pilot Bertrand Piccard, famous for his round-the-world balloon flight, and André Borschberg, a former fighter jet pilot, will take turns flying the plane – which can only carry one person at a time.

Packed with Swiss technology, the Solar Impulse 2 (Si2) is bigger and heavier than its predecessor. It weighs 2.3 tonnes and has a wingspan of 72 metres. Its 17,248 solar cells feed energy to the aircraft’s four propellers.

Additional energy is collected and stored in its lithium-polymer batteries. Flight speeds will be modest, ranging from 36-140 kilometres per hour, depending on time of day and altitude. The maximum cruising altitude is 8,500 metres.

Having flown across the United States in 2013, now the goal is to circle the globe. The half-year adventure kicks off in Abu Dhabi and will include several stops along the way. The Solar Impulse project aims to promote renewable energies and not to replace fuel-powered craft – at least for now.

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