Pilot Andre Borschberg believes that Solar Impulse 2’s historic global journey will inspire others to make innovative use of renewable energy.
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The fuel-free solar-powered plane flew into the history books Monday when it reached Abu Dhabi, completing the final leg of the first solar-powered journey around the world. The plane, which set off from Abu Dhabi in March 2015, traveled 26,744 miles on its odyssey and racked up 558 hours of flight time
“It’s a great example of how we can make the impossible possible, and, specifically, how to turn obstacles into opportunities,” Borschberg told FoxNews.com, via phone Wednesday.
The former Swiss military pilot has taken turns with Solar Impulse Chairman Bertrand Piccard to fly the single-seater plane around the world. Piccard was at the controls when the plane landed in Abu Dhabi Monday.
A larger version of a single-seat prototype that first flew six years ago, Solar Impulse 2 is made of carbon fiber and has 17,248 solar cells built into the wings that supply the plane with renewable energy, via four motors. The solar cells recharge four lithium polymer batteries, which provide power for night flying.
Borschberg told FoxNews.com that the plane has laid the foundations for the broader use of renewable energy in aviation, noting that its electric motor technology is 97 percent energy efficient. “Electric propulsion will be a major player in aviation because it is so energy efficient,” he said.
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Facebook’s ambitious plan to provide internet service via solar-powered drone is the based on the same model as Solar Impulse 2, Borschberg said, noting that NASA and Airbus have also announced plans to develop electric airplanes.
“I am sure that in five years we will see a lot of small general aviation planes that are electric,” Borschberg added. “There are great opportunities for these technologies.”
Borschberg broke a number of records on the eighth leg of Solar Impulse’s 2 journey, landing in Hawaii on July 3, 2015 after an incredible 4,480-mile, 118-hour flight from Japan. The journey shattered the record for longest solar-powered flight in terms of distance and duration. Borschberg also broke the record for longest non-stop solo flight without refueling, which previously stood at 76 hours and 45 minutes.
The pilot told FoxNews.com that the five-day journey was his highlight of the global trip. “That was something that was extremely challenging, everyone on the team was tense,” he said. “I trusted the work of my guys.”
However, the following leg – from Hawaii to California -- was delayed for nine months while the Solar Impulse team repaired damage to the plane’s batteries sustained on the journey from Japan. “The batteries over-heated – that was because of over-insulation,” Borschberg explained.
Piccard and Borschberg are planning to continue their renewable energy push, recently announcing a plan to create the International Committee of Clean Technologies (ICCT), which aims to provide independent energy policy guidance to governments and corporations.
“The goal is to regroup everyone who believes in the importance of promoting clean energy,” said Borschberg. “Over the next six months, that should be put in place.”
More immediately, the pilot is looking forward to spending time with his family now that Solar Impulse 2’s epic journey is complete. “I have two granddaughters – one is two months and one is eight months,” he said. “I really need to spend some time with these two beautiful little girls.”
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