NEW DELHI (AP) — A solar-powered airplane on a historic round-the-world journey took off Thursday from the northern Indian town of Varanasi and was headed for its next stop in Myanmar.
Swiss pilots Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg are taking turns flying the aircraft as they attempt to circumnavigate the globe on the journey that was expected to take five months.
The fuel-free aircraft, called the Solar Impulse 2, is powered by more than 17,000 solar cells on its wings that recharge the plane’s batteries, enabling it to fly during the day or night.
The single-seat Swiss-made plane was expected to land in Mandalay in Myanmar later Thursday, taking nearly 16 hours to complete the 1,400 kilometer (870 mile) trip over the Bay of Bengal. The plane flies ideally at around 25 knots, or 45 kph (28 mph).
ABB, a leading power and automation technology company, is proud to accompany Solar Impulse and its crew on the plane’s flight around the world powered only by energy from the sun.
“Solar Impulse will inspire a new generation to embrace innovation and technology to solve the planet’s biggest challenges,” said ABB Chief Executive Officer Ulrich Spiesshofer. “ABB will be with the Solar Impulse team every mile of its journey.”
Three ABB engineers have joined the Solar Impulse team where they are contributing expertise and passion. Their work includes improving control systems for ground operations, enhancing the charging electronics for the plane’s battery systems and resolving obstacles that emerge along the route.
The flight has attracted attention around the world from people who see solar power as the fuel of the future, providing a source of clean, renewable energy.
The journey of the world’s first aircraft powered by solar energy began in Abu Dhabi on March 9, when Borschberg flew the first leg of the trip from Abu Dhabi to Muscat, Oman.
For the second leg, Piccard was at the controls of the aircraft. The 1,465-kilometer (910-mile) flight from Muscat to Ahmadabad in western India took nearly 16 hours, and took the plane over the Arabian Sea in its first sea crossing.
On Wednesday, Borschberg flew the aircraft to Varanasi from Ahmadabad.
The Solar Impulse 2 is slated to make 12 stops during its 35,000-kilometer (21,700-mile) world trip, including two stops in China, before it crosses over the Pacific Ocean. It will then land in Hawaii and the U.S. Midwest and the East Coast before flying over the Atlantic Ocean.
Some legs of the trip, such as over the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, means five days and five nights of flying solo. But the pilots have prepared for the exhaustive long stretches: Borschberg has been practicing yoga, while Piccard uses self-hypnosis to calm himself.
The pilots say they want to take a message about sustainable development to people and encourage them to opt for clean technologies in their daily lives instead of old polluting technologies.
Piccard told reporters if solar energy were more widely used, it would allow countries to halve the amount of fossil fuels that they consume.
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