Two Swiss adventurers plan to start and end their historic round-the-world flight in a solar aircraft from the UAE .
The fuel-less aircraft, Solar Impulse 2, which was unveiled by the duo in Switzerland on Wednesday, will be manned by just one pilot for five consecutive days and nights. The solar aircraft aims to raise awareness about the need to adopt renewable energy  to solve many of the world’s problems, including climate change.
Andre Borschberg and Dr Bertrand Piccard flew the world’s first solar plane, Solar Impulse 1, in 2010 and 2011 respectively.
“I come quite often to Dubai and Abu Dhabi and have participated in several World Future Energy Summits. I have always been impressed by the pioneering spirit of the UAE,” Piccard told Gulf News on Wednesday from Payerne in Switzerland before unveiling Solar Impulse 2 , the single-seater solar aircraft.
“I believe the UAE has understood that renewable energy not only protects the environment but also creates jobs and generates profit.
“Dubai is already one of the world’s biggest hubs for commercial aviation, and it will soon become the biggest. This is why I wish to begin and end the first round- the-world solar flight from the UAE in March 2015,” Piccard said.
“A great adventure needs a great place to start from. Solar Impulse could be an ambassador promoting the spirit of Expo 2020 on its way around the world. We have already initiated meetings to explore this possible collaboration with the UAE authorities,” he added.
No comments were available from UAE authorities on Wednesday.
Piccard and Borschberg will take turns as pilots.
The duo designed Solar Impulse 1, the first solar aircraft capable of flying during the night, crossing two continents and flying over the US, the aircraft broke eight world records.
Piccard is a psychiatrist and explorer and Borschberg is an engineer and entrepreneur. Wednesday’s launch of Solar Impulse 2 was the culmination of
12 years of calculations, simulations, construction and tests.
“Solar Impulse was not built to carry passengers, but to carry messages. We want to demonstrate the importance of the pioneering spirit, to encourage people to question what they’ve always taken for granted. The world needs to find new ways of improving the quality of human life. Clean technologies and renewable forms of energy are part of the solution,” Piccard said.
The single-seater solar aircraft has a huge wingspan of 72 metres for its weight of just 2,300kg, producing an aerodynamic performance and energy efficiency greater than anything to date. There is a 3.8 m3 cockpit, every detail of which has been designed for a pilot to live there for a week. However, for the sake of maximum energy efficiency, the cabin is not pressurised or heated — a further endurance challenge for the pilot.
Test flights are due to take place in May, followed by training flights over Switzerland.
Solar Impulse 2 will fly, in order, over the Arabian Sea, India, Burma, China, the Pacific Ocean, the US, the Atlantic Ocean and Southern Europe or North Africa before closing the loop by returning to the departure point. It is not clear how many days it will take to complete the world flight. Landings will be made every few days to change pilots and organise public events for governments, schools and universities.