On 26 July Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg completed the last leg of their 43,000km round-the-world journey in a plane powered by solar energy.
The Swiss-made monoplane can operate from takeoff to landing using just the energy captured by the 17,000 cells on its 72m wide wings.
Piccard and Borchberg took turns in each of the 17 stages of the trip which began and ended in Abu Dhabi (UAE). The pilot is only allowed naps of 20 minutes at a time.
In total, the project has broken 19 aviation records for solo and long distance flights. The longest leg of the trip took the team almost 9,000km from Nagoya, Japan to Hawaii, US lasting 4 days, 21 hours and 52 minutes.
While at first the Swiss duo responsible for the solar circumnavigation were met with skepticism, they eventually gained financial backing to allow them to use the latest materials and technology to harness solar energy.
The mission control center in Monaco celebrated in relief after 13 years of testing and planning.
Piccard and Borschberg continue to raise awareness on the benefits of solar flight. They announced the intention to create the International Committee for Clean Technologies while flying over the Atlantic Ocean on the 22nd June this year.
Despite being more than 150 million kilometers away, the Sun beams on average 1400 Watts of energy per m2 on Earth.
As solar cell efficiency is improved year on year, plans to use solar-powered drones in the telecommunication industry has become an increasingly attractive market prospect.
Bertrand Piccard spoke to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon live from the Solar Impulse 2 cockpit hours before landing: “Solar Impulse has flown more than 40,000 kilometers without fuel, but with an inexhaustible supply of energy and inspiration.”
“This is a historic day for Captain Piccard and the Solar Impulse team, but it is also a historic day for humanity,” said the UN Secretary-General.
Now they proved it can be done, further research is now being done to build automated solar powered craft that can fly continuously at high altitudes.