Solar-powered aircraft lands in Silicon Valley

Solar Impulse 2 is flying around the world without using a single drop of fuel

Solar Impulse 2, a solar-powered aircraft that's circumnavigating the globe without using a single drop of fuel, arrived in Silicon Valley on Saturday evening.

The aircraft had taken off from Hawaii just under 63 hours earlier to complete its journey across the Pacific.

"Good morning California," pilot Bertrand Piccard shouted as he stepped out of the aircraft at just after midnight on Sunday morning to cheers. Around 100 people had been invited to the airfield to watch the plane land, including Google co-founder Sergey Brin.

Solar Impulse 2 can carry a single passenger and is a sleek, lightweight craft powered entirely by the sun. Thousands of solar panels on its wings power up four batteries, which provide enough energy to keep it flying all night before the recharging starts again the next morning.

A problem with that recharging system ground the aircraft in Hawaii and then the team had to wait eight months for better weather, but now things are back on track.

A few hours before touchdown, Piccard took in the sights of nearby San Francisco, giving residents a chance to see the unique carbon-fiber plane which has a wingspan greater than a Boeing 747.

2016 04 23 landing moffet10 Solar Impulse

Solar Impulse 2 flies above San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge on April 23, 2016.

Solar Impulse 2 is being piloted by Piccard and André Borschberg, who are flying alternate legs of the journey. Piccard conceived the round-the-world journey to highlight what's possible with modern technology and renewable energy.

"Today, if we were to replace to old polluting devices with modern clean technology, we could divide by two the CO2 emissions and at the same time we would create jobs and make a profit," he told IDG News Service in an interview. "So we have to explain that today, protecting the environment is profitable and it was not the case in the past."

The aircraft took off from Abu Dhabi in July last year. It will now cross the U.S. before heading across the Atlantic to southern Europe or northern Africa before arriving back in Abu Dhabi.

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Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
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