The Solar Impulse Has Officially Flown Around the World

A milestone in clean energy has arrived.

Getty Images / Handout

It was an adventure like no other, and after over a year, it’s now coming to a close. The Solar Impulse (technically, the Solar Impulse 2) arrived safe and sound in Abu Dhabi today after flying a reported 40,000 kilometers on nothing but solar energy. The mission began as a test, but it was also to prove a point: that we can function and prosper on clean energy, giving our planet an alternative to the damaging and expensive fuels that often power airplanes, cars, and other mechanized means of transit.

Swiss pilots Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg completed their mission today, as Piccard successfully landed the SI2 to the sound of thunderous applause. Using no fuel whatsoever, the S12 has seen some of the Earth’s most magnificent landmarks over the course of its 17-leg journey.

The Solar Impulse story began back in March of 2015, when the plane first took off from Abu Dhabi and started the first of its 588 hours of flight time. The revolutionary aircraft is made of carbon fiber, and is powered entirely by 17,248 individual solar cells that are built into the wings — these cells supply the plane with renewable energy using four motors, and can recharge four lithium polymer batteries, providing more than enough power for evening flights. Along the way, it made stops in New York, Dayton, California, Phoenix, Japan, Hawaii, Tulsa, Oman, India, Myanmar, China, Lehigh Valley, and Seville. The pilots also picked up countless records, including one for Borschberg’s non-stop solo flight without fuel during the eighth leg of the trip.

Piccard (the project’s chairman) and Borschberg have been taking turns guiding the aircraft, which finished its journey across the Atlantic ocean just last month. The two plan on continuing their clean energy efforts by kicking off the International Committee for Clean Technologies, according to the Solar Impulse blog.