© Solar Impulse | AFP Photo
The sunrise pictured shortly after the Solar Impulse 2 took off from the international airport in Nagoya, Japan, early on June 29, 2015.
KEN MORITSUGU, Associated Press
TOKYO (AP) — A solar-powered plane took off from Japan early Monday to attempt a five-day flight over open water to Hawaii, the eighth leg of its bid to fly around the world without fuel.
Its long wings lighting up the night sky, the Solar Impulse 2 departed at 3:03 a.m. after an unscheduled, month-long stop in Japan because of unfavorable weather.
The flight to Hawaii, by far the longest of the journey so far, is risky because there are few if any places to land in an emergency.
Swiss pilot Andre Borschberg is flying solo. The plane, which started in Abu Dhabi on March 9, is powered by more than 17,000 solar cells on its wings that recharge its batteries. From Hawaii, it is to continue on to Phoenix, then hopscotch across the United States and the Atlantic to Europe, before returning to Abu Dhabi.
ABB is working on the mission to fly the plane around the world without using a drop of fuel. In January, the company was excited about the opportunity to work on the flight.
“Solar Impulse will inspire a new generation to embrace innovation and technology to solve the planet’s biggest challenges,” said ABB Chief Executive Officer Ulrich Spiesshofer. “ABB will be with the Solar Impulse team every mile of its journey.”
Three ABB engineers have joined the Solar Impulse team where they are contributing expertise and passion. Their work includes improving control systems for ground operations, enhancing the charging electronics for the plane’s battery systems and resolving obstacles that emerge along the route.
The spokesman for the solar mission was disappointed about the long delay in Japan because the work ABB is doing is working correctly.
“We are a little bit sad, because everything’s functioning perfectly: The batteries are charging, there’s enough sun, the pilot is in good health, he’s in good condition — it’s all working well,” Neumann said.
At the time of landing, the plane’s batteries were still 74 percent charged, according to the organizer website.
Borschberg originally left Nanjing, China, for Hawaii on May 31, but diverted to an airport in Nagoya in central Japan on June 1 because a cold front threatened to block his way. After a wing repair, he and team members waited in Nagoya for the right conditions to depart.
The project is meant to demonstrate the potential of improved energy efficiency and clean power, though solar-powered air travel is not yet commercially practical.
Solar Impulse 2 is dependent on the right weather conditions, and organizers waited about nine hours after takeoff for the plane to pass what they called “the point of no return” before officially announcing that it was aloft.
“Now fully into the flight to Hawaii,” Borschberg tweeted a little while later. “Very strong emotions as I passed the point of no return: exploration starts here.”
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