The sun-powered Solar Impulse plane is being piloted by Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg, as they tacit is on its first transcontinental journey, setting out for Morocco and stopping in Madrid, Spain on it’s way to North Africa. The team has been invited to Morocco by the country’s King Mohammed VI to showcase the cutting edge of solar technology. Morocco is about to start construction on a massive solar energy plant at Ouarzazate. The plant will form part of a country-wide solar energy grid with a capacity of 2000 megawatts by 2020.
The jumbo jet-size plane’s goal is to complete the 1,554-mile trip by next week, and the big challenge will be crossing cloudy regions like the Pyrenees mountains separating France and Spain. It made its first test flight in 2010, when its 12,000 solar cells first soaked up enough rays to keep it going through the night for a 26-hour flight. Since this trip is a lot longer, the pilots are prepared with parachutes in case anything goes wrong or if its solar cells can’t soak up enough rays for the journey.
But if all goes well on this trial run for the prototype single-seater aircraft Piccard and Borschberg will be just one step away from their goal of circumnavigating the world in 2014 in a plane that’s powered only by the sun’s rays. The project began in 2003 and is estimated to cost about $100 million over 10 years.