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Zero-Fuel ‘Solar Impulse 2’ Flying over Saudi Airspace | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The Solar Impulse 2. PHOTO: REUTERS

The Saudi Aviation Authority granted the Solar Impulse 2 plane to fly over Saudi Arabia for two days.

The aircraft will be flying over Saudi Arabia as of Friday July 15, 2016 coming from Cairo and heading to its last destination Abu-Dhabi, SPA reported.

Solar Impulse 2, a part of a Swiss long-range experimental solar-powered aircraft project and completed in 2014, carries more solar cells and more powerful motors, among other improvements and adjustments made two its predecessor the Solar Impulse 1.

In March 2015, Swiss engineer and businessman André Borschberg and Swiss psychiatrist and aeronaut Bertrand Piccard launched their attempt on circumnavigating the globe with Solar Impulse 2, departing from Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

The around-the-world voyage, once completed, will be the longest solar trip in aviation history.

Captain Abdulhakeem Al-Badr, Assistant President of the authority for Saudi Arabia’s Security and Safety, said granting the Solar Impulse 2 an overflying license comes within the authority’s objectives encouraging innovation in the field of aviation.

The wings of Solar Impulse 2, which stretch wider than those of a Boeing 747, are equipped with 17,000 solar cells that power propellers and charge batteries.

The plane runs on stored energy at night. Not a single drop of traditional plane fuel is used in Solar Impulse 2.

During daylight, the solar panels charge the plane’s batteries, which make up a quarter of the craft’s 2.3 tons weight. The pilot also climbs to 29,000 feet during the day and glides down to 5,000 feet during the night, to conserve power. The plane flies at about 30mph, although it can go faster if the sun is bright.

Ideal flight speed is about 45.06 kph (28 mph), although that can double during the day when the sun’s rays are strongest.

The plane’s longest leg flown was a 4,000 miles trip over the Pacific from Japan to Hawaii. The 118-hour leg smashed the record for the longest uninterrupted journey in aviation history.

The solar project, which is estimated to cost more than $100 million, began in 2002 to highlight the importance of renewable energy and the spirit of innovation.