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Solar Plane Circles The Globe

Solar Impulse 2, a solar-powered aircraft, successfully completed the first fuel-free flight around the world on Tuesday, returning to Abu Dhabi after an epic 16-month voyage that demonstrated the potential of renewable energy.


(Start around 18:30 for best results)

The plane, Solar Impulse 2, touched down in the United Arab Emirates capital at 0005 GMT (0405 local time) on Tuesday.

It first took off from Abu Dhabi on March 9, 2015, beginning a journey of about 40,000 km (24,500 miles) and nearly 500 hours of flying time.

Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg, the Swiss founders of the project, took turns piloting the aircraft, which has a wingspan larger than a Boeing 747 but weighs no more than an average family car.

"More than an achievement in the history of aviation, Solar Impulse has made history in energy," Piccard, who piloted the plane on the last leg, told a large crowd on landing.

"I’m sure that within the next 10 years we’ll see electric airplanes carrying 50 passengers on short- to medium-haul flights," he said in a statement.

In his 1980 novel Changeling, Roger Zelazny described tracer birds, small autonomous aircraft that recharged themselves by the sun:

The dark birdforms dotted the mountaintops like statues of prehistoric beasts, wings outspread. Had there been an eye to observe them, it might not even have noted their minute, tropism-like pursuit of the sun across the sky as they recharged their batteries for the night's flight.

See also the solar-powered aircraft in The Black Star Passes, by John W. Campbell.

Via Reuters.

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