Solar Impulse 2 still in Abu Dhabi but no decision yet on public visits

Solar Impulse 2, the first solar plane to circumnavigate the globe without a drop of fuel, is still in Abu Dhabi but no decision has been made on allowing the public to visit the plane.

“We have no public visit plan in Abu Dhabi for the moment,” an official spokesman for Solar Impulse told Gulf News on Tuesday. Many Gulf News readers had expressed their desire to visit the plane that completed its historic global flight on July 26 in Abu Dhabi. The aircraft is being kept at Al Bateen Executive Airport in Abu Dhabi, the departure and arrival point of its historic global expedition.

The zero-fuel electric and solar plane travelled 43,041km in 23 days in a 17-leg journey that started from Abu Dhabi in March 2015. The project costing $170 million (Dh624.41 million) over 13 years and supported by Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company Masdar, has raised awareness about the prospect of solar energy and clean technologies across the world. The technologies used on the aircraft can help improve two key areas — energy storage and efficiency — in several sectors.

The unprecedented media coverage attracted by Solar Impulse and support received from world leaders and global organisations served its purpose, according to Swiss adventurers Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg who took turns as the pilot of the single-seater aircraft. “We received good media coverage beyond our expectation,” Borschberg had told Gulf News in an interview. Around 200 media representatives from local and international media witnessed the historic culmination of the global flight in Abu Dhabi.

The spokesman said the management was working on the future of the plane that set a number of world records. “The discussions are still open and we investigate different options,” he said. A comment from Masdar was not available on Tuesday.

Solar Impulse had earlier said several ideas were being discussed with the Masdar team, one of which included leaving the plane in Abu Dhabi. The other ideas being discussed included dismantling the aeroplane, which would take about a month, and sending it back to Switzerland and possibly putting it in an exhibition.

The single-seater aircraft, whose cockpit is too small to allow its solo pilot to stand up, has a wingspan of 72 metres, weighs 2.3 tonnes and uses 17,248 solar cells to produce its power.

Although the global flight ended Abu Dhabi, the very purpose of the project would never end, according to Piccard. The next step is the creation of an international committee for clean technologies — ‘World Council for Clean Technologies’, he said. This is the way to put together all the actors in the clean technology sector — businesses, international organisations, foundations, and start-ups, Piccard said.


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