Solar powered airplane to touch Varanasi, Ahmedabad

Our Bureau Bengaluru | Updated on January 24, 2018


The first round-the-world flight of a only-solar-powered aircraft, expected to start from Abu Dhabi on March 1, will touch two Indian cities—Ahmedabad and Varanasi.

The aircraft that a wing span of 72 metres, a little wider than that of as a Boeing 747 and weighs as much as a car, will circumnavigate the globe, touching 12 countries and return to Abu Dhabi sometime in August.

(The reason for the choice of Ahmedabad and Varanasi has not been disclosed, but the no Indian could miss the connection of the two cities with the Indian Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi. The first is the capital city of his home state, where he was the Chief Minister for a dozen years and the second is the constituency he represents in the Parliament.)

The aircraft, Solar Impulse 2, of Si2, has been conceived by two Swiss nationals—businessman Andre Borschberg, and psychiatrist and balloonist Bertrand Piccard. The venture has been funded by a clutch of multinational corporations, notably, Masdar, Abu Dhabi’s renewable energy company, Solvay, Omega, Schindler, ABB, Swiss RE, Swisscom and Bayer.

The other Indian connection that Si2 has is that the Andre and Bertrand are being trained in yoga by Sanjeev Bhanot, Director of Yogalife Foundation, Geneva, Switzerland.

Solar Impulse 1 was a prototype aircraft that has flown several stretches within the United States and Europe since 2010.

Si2 is powered by 17,248 monosilicon PV cells that generate 260 kWh a day. Lithium ion batteries that store energy power the night flights. Its stops include Muscat in Oman, Ahmedabad and Varanasi, Mandalay in Myanmar, Chongqing and Nanjing in China and Hawaii in the United States, from where it will fly to Phoenix and New York, thence to southern Europe and back to Abu Dhabi. Four times during this tour the Si2 will fly for more than 100 hours. The aircraft is capable of achieving a maximum speed of 100 km a hour and the preferred cruising altitude is 8,500 metres.

Bertrand Piccard has been quoted as saying that he was more afraid of living in a world that burns a billion tonnes of oil each hour than flying solar-powered aeroplanes.

Published on January 20, 2015

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