Yesterday we witnessed a historical moment, perhaps something I will tell my grandchildren I witnessed when I’m old. In a world run on non-renewable energy, I felt shivers down my spine to see an aeroplane, without a drop of fuel, take flight and land perfectly (scroll down to see video)
Solvay’s Solar Impulse-2 took off from Abu Dhabi and flew to Oman, a modest 400km which took 13 hours and carried the pilot alone at a maximum speed of just 140kph. However it has the wingspan of a jumbo jet and flew powered exclusively by the sun. The record breaking flight was the first leg in a plan to fly all around the world, a total distance of 22,000 miles.
The plane, which has 17,000 solar cells in its carbon fibre structure, took 10 years of research and development to get to this stage. It can fly day and night without any fuel. The plane uses a special additive to the batteries, made by Belgium company Solvay, which makes the batteries lighter, safer and allows more charging without adding any extra weight.
Solar Impulse-2 will not be sticking around for long in Oman as it makes its next stop in Ahmedabad. It will then be travelling to China, the USA, Europe and Africa before returning home to Abu Dhabi. This will require a daring five hour solo flight over the Pacific Ocean.
The record breaking flight could be the beginning of a new era. It is predicted that solar energy will become the main source of electricity by 2050 and it should be noted that solar jobs already outnumber coal jobs in the USA.
The fact that the Arab world is making innovation in the world of renewable energy has been welcomed. Recently there has been a drive in the UAE and Saudi Arabia to move away from dependency on non-renewable fuels despite Saudi Arabia’s economy being mostly based on being the biggest exporter of oil in the world.
Here we see take off in Abu Dhabi, UAE and then landing in Muscat, Oman: