The latest version of a solar powered aircraft made a successful maiden flight in Switzerland earlier this week. Solar Impulse 2 is designed to circumnavigate the globe. This new model follows on from the Solar Impulse 1 which made flights across The States in 2013.
Its upper surfaces are decked with solar panels providing power to four brushless electric motors giving 70 horsepower overall. The entire craft weighs 5,000 pounds including 2,000 pounds of lithium ion batteries which store energy for nighttime operation. Oceans crossings are expected to take up to five days each so the single-pilot cabin has everything necessary for five days of flying including the pilot seat which converts to a bed. To cut down on weight the cabin is both unpressurized and unheated.
Once testing of the new design is complete the plan is to disassemble Solar Impulse 2, ship it to an airport in the Persian Gulf region and fly it across the Arabian Sea to India, stopping in Myanmar and China and then on to the first ocean crossing, across the Pacific followed by another flight across the United States. Solar Impulse 2 will then fly across the Atlantic Ocean and over either Europe or Northern Africa before returning to the same airport it started from. If all goes to plan the world journey is expected to begin in March 2015.