The Solar Impulse 2 airplane will commence its journey on March 1 from Abu Dhabi, and return in late July or early August 2015, the team has revealed.
The airplane is the upgraded model of the solar-powered Solar Impulse prototype -- a plane which has collected eight world records, including the longest solar powered flight, the first solar plane to fly between two continents and the first solar plane to fly through the night. The Solar Impulse 2, the team claims, will be able to fly continuously for five days and nights without fuel.
The 2,300 kilogram (5,070lb) plane is fitted with 17,248 solar cells across its 72-metre (236ft) wingspan, fuselage and tailplane. These collect up to 340kWh per day form solar energy and supply it to four 17.5 horsepower electric motors, while simultaneously charging 633kg of lithium polymer batteries so that the plane can fly at night.
This means the plane can only fly at speeds of between 36 kph and 140 kph (22 mph and 87mph) -- around the equivalent of a car. The trip is going to take several months, as opposed to the several days a round-the-world trip would take in a commercial airliner, with a total flight time of around 500 hours.
For this reason, the plane will have two pilots, Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, who will take turns flying the plane for alternating legs of the journey. The 3.8-metre-cubed cockpit -- which is unpressurised, to save weight -- has also been adapted as a living space so that pilots can spend up to five or six days at a time in the air. The seat reclines to double as a bed, so that the pilot can rest. It also triples as a toilet.
There's also enough space for spare oxygen, food and survival equipment, and both pilots have been trained with self-hypnosis and meditation techniques to maintain focus. A mission control centre will monitor the flight and provide support.
There are 12 stops planned for the Solar Impulse 2's journey, according to the website:
"Muscat, Oman; Ahmedabad and Varanasi, India; Mandalay, Myanmar; and Chongqing and Nanjing, China. After crossing the Pacific Ocean via Hawaii, [Solar Impulse 2] will fly across the Continental USA, stopping in three locations -- Phoenix, and New York City at JFK. A location in the Midwest will be decided dependent on weather conditions. After crossing the Atlantic, the final legs include a stop-over in Southern Europe or North Africa before arriving back in Abu Dhabi."
You can follow the plane's history-making journey from March 1 on the Solar Impulse website.