In Pictures: The solar plane set to circumnavigate the globe

Factor has been given rare access to a solar plane that will be flown around the world in 2015.

Bertrand Piccard, Solar Impulse president, initiator and pilot, plans to fly around the world in the latest solar powered aeroplane that his company has built next year.

With a balloonist and undersea explorer for father and grandfather respectively, Piccard is no stranger to epic journeys.

In 1999 he became the first man to circumnavigate the globe non-stop in a balloon, a feat that earned him a slew of awards and honours.

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The latest iteration of the plane, Solar Impulse 2, will be flown around the world over a period of five months, stopping in various locations for a month at a time.

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In total the plane will be in the air for around 25 days, with each leg of the journey being meticulously planned and simulated before it’s completed.

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However Piccard said that the challenges to complete the flight are vast and range from political to more obvious considerations such as the weather.

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“What keeps us up at night is everything. Nobody has done it before. There is no benchmark. Absolutely everything is new,” he said.

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In 2010 the first iteration of the plane completed a 24 hour flight and has also flown overnight as it stores energy harvested from the solar panels in on-board batteries.

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Piccard said: “We can say that Solar Impulse has the technology of yesterday, Solar Impulse 2 has the technology of tomorrow.”

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The aim for future developments of the plane would be to create a solar powered plane that is able to fly around the world non-stop, Piccard said.

Factor viewed the plane today in Switzerland, and will feature it fully in the January edition of our digital magazine.

Remote-controlled passenger planes could take to the air

Passenger planes that are remotely controlled by a pilot who isn’t on the aircraft may one day be a reality due to advances in drone technology, a group of pilots has said.

The British Airline Pilots Association made the prediction in evidence submitted to officials looking at the future potential for drone use and the regulations that are needed for their safe use.

However the use of theses type of aircraft may be a long way off as there are many factors which need to be improved upon before they would ever be able to take to the skies.

“We believe that in the distant future we may well see passenger-carrying, remotely-piloted aircraft, but this is fraught with difficulties,” the organisation said in its submission to the UK’s House of Lord’s Committee looking at drones.

The association said that drone cargo planes are more likely, however, as there would not be anyone onboard in the event of crash.

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Outlining the challenging approaches for the creating a remotely controlled passenger plane the Pilots Association said that any future creations would have to be trusted by the public and be financially viable.

Its evidence said: “Putting aside the inevitable resistance of the public to fly on a machine where the person who holds their life in their hands does not actually sit alongside them, the financial side of it does not currently add up.

“If a manufacturer has to produce an aircraft that has all the life support infrastructure required for passengers and cabin crew, there would be little point going to the extra expense of building a secure ground base station for the pilots; they may as well be on the aircraft. So the most obvious potential is in the cargo sector.”

The organisation continued by saying that an automated cargo plane would also not need life support equipment, doesn’t need to be pressurised, or have catering, seating, windows or toilets.

This would make it “lighter, cheaper to run, more efficient and easier to build” than an remotely controlled passenger plane.

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This isn’t the first time that drone cargo vessels that would be able to deliver vital (and non-vital supplies) around the world has been suggested.

Rolls Royce is working on drone cargo ships for long haulage trips across oceans. These were also set to be controlled by captains on land, who have a virtual reality view of the ships bridge.

While for cargo to be carried on land, across potentially shorter distances Mercedes Benz has been building self-driving trucks.

The trucks, it said, would be able to self-drive on open roads and help to save lives as it would prevent drivers from being a danger when they are tired.