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World tour


Solar Impulse arrives at starting gate


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The solar plane had its long wings temporarily removed before being transported (solarimpulse.com)

The solar plane had its long wings temporarily removed before being transported

(solarimpulse.com)

The Solar Impulse 2 aircraft – the second version of the Swiss solar-powered plane – has arrived in Abu Dhabi. From there it is expected to commence its five-month-long world tour in March 2015.

The cargo aircraft transporting Solar Impulse 2 left the Payerne airbase at on Tuesday morning and landed in Abu Dhabi in the early evening.

Even though the solar aircraft is designed to withstand turbulence in flight, it is a delicate machine to transport. It has a wingspan of 72 metres, which is larger than that of the cargo aircraft transporting it. Thus, the wing was disassembled into three pieces and all the components of the aircraft were placed in specially-designed holding containers.

A team of six specialists worked into the night to pack the solar plane into the 747. The cost of transporting the plane is estimated at CHF400,000 ($397,972), which is less expensive than the CHF500,000 spent to transport Solar Impulse 1 to the United States last year.

After a few months of preparation in Abu Dhabi, Solar Impulse 2 will take advantage of favourable weather conditions to commence its five-month world tour in March. It will fly eastwards towards the Arabian Sea, India, Burma, China, the Pacific Ocean, the United States, the Atlantic Ocean, southern Europe, and North Africa before returning to its starting point in Abu Dhabi.

In 2010, Solar Impulse 1 flew for 26 hours without landing, proving its ability to store enough electricity in its solar cells during the day to continue flying at night. However, Solar Impulse 2 will have to fly non-stop for 120 hours – or five days and nights – the time required to cross the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. 

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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