Can it fly around the world without a drop of fuel?
Can it fly around the world without a drop of fuel? The Swiss-built solar aircraft took off from Muscat in Oman (Reuters)
Can it fly around the world without a drop of fuel?
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A Swiss solar-powered plane took off from Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates on Monday. It marked the start of the first attempt to fly around the world without a drop of fuel.

Solar Impulse founder Andr Borschberg was at the controls of the single-seater. It took off from the Al Bateen Executive Airport. Borschberg will trade off piloting with Solar Impulse co-founder Bertrand Piccard during stop-overs. The solar plane's journey will take months to complete.

The Swiss pilots say their aim is to create awareness about replacing "old polluting technologies with clean and efficient technologies."

The plane is expected to reach its first destination Muscat, Oman after about 10 hours of flight.

Some legs of the trip, such as over the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, will mean five or six straight days of flying.

The lightweight Solar Impulse 2, a larger version of a single-seat prototype that first flew five years ago, is made of carbon fiber. It has 17,248 solar cells built into the wing. They supply the plane with renewable energy. The solar cells recharge four lithium polymer batteries.

The company says the plane has a 236-foot wingspan. That is larger than that of the Boeing 747. But it weighs about as much as an SUV at around 5,070 pounds.

In June the plane made an inaugural flight. It traveled two hours and 17 minutes above western Switzerland. That was just two months after it was unveiled.

After Oman, the plane will head to India, where it will make two stops. Then it's on to China and Myanmar. Next it will head across the Pacific and stop in Hawaii. Then it will fly to Phoenix, Ariz., and New York's biggest airport, John F. Kennedy International. The path across the Atlantic will depend on the weather. It could include a stop in southern Europe or Morocco before ending in Abu Dhabi.

The round-the-world trip is expected to end in late July. Or even August.

Borschberg and Piccard say they want to push politicians, celebrities and private citizens to confront the Conference on Climate Change of the United Nations. It will define the new Kyoto protocol in December 2015 in Paris. There, all countries are supposed to present targets for a new global climate agreement. Governments are expected to adopt a plan at the meeting.

Critical thinking challenge: Why will it take so long to fly over the Atlantic Ocean?

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Assigned 113 times

  • SebastianH-1
    3/11/2015 - 11:42 p.m.

    The first world-round trip made by a solar-powered plane had been planned, and will end in late July or so. The purpose is to tell people that air planes can start being made in a more eco friendly way. It will take off in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, and will take stops in certain locations. There will be no fuel used. This article was brief, but had good information to support its topic.

  • JohnL-4
    3/12/2015 - 12:52 a.m.

    A plane prototype was recently built to create a plane that uses absolutely no fuel. Andre Borschberg is going to take a four month world trip in this plane to show how well it works. The idea of this prototype is that this type of technology will eventually replace modern day planes, and our environment will be safer, and more Eco. friendly. I think it is a miracle that technology has come this far, and I hope most planes will be solar powered by the time I am an adult.

  • ConnerC-Kut
    3/12/2015 - 07:55 a.m.

    I really think that using solar power is much cooler and more efficient than using polluted fuels. I believe this type of design should be implemented into other types of vehicles. I can't believe there is such a big wingspan on it though, I think it could be cut down and still have it's same trajectory and be able to keep stable. The Swiss pilots are right, replace old polluted technologies with new clean technologies.

  • carterr-And
    3/12/2015 - 08:13 a.m.

    This is amazing what inventors can think of know a days. This plane that runs on the sun could change how we fly and could stop a lot of air pollution. I hope this amazing invention can one day hold a lot of people.

  • JJ01blue
    3/12/2015 - 08:45 a.m.

    This article is about a plane that only uses solar powered wings to fly it through the sky without any gas. It has 17,248 solar cells in the planes wings. Its has 236ft. of wingspan and it weighs as much as a SUV 5,070 pounds.

  • ethanc-Orv
    3/12/2015 - 11:26 a.m.

    Why will it take so long to fly over the Atlantic Ocean? because the sun off the water is not direct sun light and there could be unpredicted storms.

  • vba932
    3/12/2015 - 11:34 a.m.

    This is a start of a pretty cool idea, but a regular passenger plane takes a lot more power than what this can produce. I predict that it will take a while before we convert our energy use to completely Eco-friendly. I wonder about the efficiency of this plane though.

  • Emmanuel10
    3/12/2015 - 11:47 a.m.

    I don't think it will because the trip is to long for the plane and no plane has ever done that but there is a chance they could actually pull it off.

  • benc-And
    3/12/2015 - 11:57 a.m.

    No you cant fly a plane without gas because it out just come down to the ground because it wont have any power behind it

  • kelbyd-And
    3/12/2015 - 11:58 a.m.

    Atlantic Ocean is so big and there is no where to stop and rest because of the water.That is why it will take 5 or 6 days to go across the Atlantic ocean.

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