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Solar Impulse Touchdown In The Land Of Sun God Ra (VIDEOS)

CleanTechnica’s coverage of the historic round-the-world flight by Solar Impulse 2, a no-fuel, all-solar-powered plane, continues. Read our previous reports and exclusive interviews here.

Solar Impulse — the zero-fuel marvel of 21st century aviation and harbinger of a new energy age — landed a bit early at the Cairo, Egypt International Airport this morning. Good weather helped. Over the past two days, the solar-powered airplane crossed its last ocean, the Mediterranean Sea, from west to east, to reach north Africa. The goal of the first ever round-the-world solar flight, an idea born in Switzerland, is to demonstrate how modern clean technologies can achieve what was formerly thought impossible, a transition from fossil to renewable fuels.

Solar Impulse overflies the Egyptian Pyramids on leg 16 of its historic round-the-world flight (Solar Impulse on twitter)

After constructing and flight-testing the prototype of Solar Impulse, a zero-fuel single-seater aircraft made of ultralight carbon fiber, the Swiss team built another one (Si2). The second, currently about to complete its journey around the world, has a 236 ft (72 m) wingspan (larger than a Boeing 747). It weighs 5,100 lbs (2,300 kg, the equivalent of an empty family car).

Attached over the wings, 17,248 solar cells power four 38.5 kWh batteries that propel four electric motors (13.5 kW / 17.5 hp each) with renewable energy. The plane can capture and save a maximum amount of energy during the day and fly throughout the night on its batteries alone. Si2 requires zero conventional fuel and has virtually unlimited range: theoretically, Si2 could fly forever and is only limited by the physical needs of the pilot.

As CleanTechnica reported earlier this month, two and a half weeks ago, inventor, company chairman, explorer, and pilot Bertrand Piccard made a historic crossing of the Atlantic Ocean from New York to Seville, Spain. André Borschberg, pilot of the plane for this leg and CEO/cofounder of its parent company, took off at the controls from the Sevilla Airport at 6:20 am local time on July 11 for Cairo.

At the following link, history buffs and others can also see a breathtaking film of the Egypt landing — preceded by a solar salute to the Pyramids and the ancient sun god Ra.

Says André Borschberg, cofounder and CEO of the venture:

“This flight across Europe… [touched] a large number of countries, very diverse in terms of culture, climate and geography. But in addition to all being on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, they have a common denominator: the potential benefit of using renewable energies and clean technology.”

The flight comprised the second-to-last leg of Solar Impulse’s attempt to achieve the first ever Round-The-World Solar Flight. Supported by four main partners (Solvay, Omega, Schindler, and ABB), and other official partners (Google, Altran, Covestro, Swiss Re Corporate Solutions, Swisscom, and Moët Hennessy), the entire voyage launched in March 2015 in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates.

"I never had so much energy!" (Ra Impulse cartoon by Martin Saive from Solar Impulse on twitter)The technologies used by these companies and embodied in Solar Impulse not only enable humans to traverse the air; they also power an increasing amount of ground and water machinery, both commercial and individual. These undeniably revolutionary energies have unprecedented potential to move the habits of individuals, societies, and markets of the world toward sustainability.

Ulrich Spiesshofer, the president of technology partner ABB, revealed his company’s link to the project in recent interviews:

“In simple terms, with Solar Impulse, we demonstrate that we can run the world without consuming the Earth…. We need to make sure that we demonstrate to the world with projects like this that we continue to stretch the limits…. The world is going through a massive transformation [with regard to energy production and use]. I think we have passed the point of no return. It’s coming, and it’s coming at full speed.”

In a few days, Bertrand Piccard will guide Solar Impulse back to the Abu Dhabi finish line. The aircraft Piccard first envisioned and Borschberg and the Solar Impulse team built with him will likely take off for the city on the final leg of its journey sometime this weekend, between Friday, July 15, and Monday, July 18. Thanks to 10 live cameras in the cockpit, on the wings, in the mission control center, and on the ground, everyone can fly along in real time with Piccard and observe the flight with the engineers at mission control. Don’t miss this special opportunity!

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covers environmental, health, renewable and conventional energy, and climate change news. She's currently on the climate beat for Important Media, having attended last year's COP20 in Lima Peru. Sandy has also worked for groundbreaking environmental consultants and a Fortune 100 health care firm. She writes for several weblogs and attributes her modest success to an "indelible habit of poking around to satisfy my own curiosity."


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