A solar-powered aircraft roving the world made a pit stop in New York to promote the project's clean energy use and multiple adaptations. The Solar Impulse 2 is a behemoth not only because of its 63-meter wingspan, but also the expansive vision of clean energy that powers it.
"You can fly with no fuel longer than you can with fuel," Bertrand Piccard, one of the architects of the project and also one of its two co-pilots, said. "It's exactly what the world needs today; to use energy in a more clever way, in a more efficient way." The Solar Impulse was conceived in Switzerland as the brainchild of "two pioneers flying around the world in a solar airplane, to promote clean technologies," according to the project's website.
Piccard, a psychiatrist by profession and an aeronaut, along with engineer and entrepreneur Andre Borschberg, began flying their first prototype in 2009. Since then, they have been hard at work to complete a journey around the globe on a fixed-wing plane solely powered by the sun, and they have the mileage to back their claim.Piccard and Borschberg have so far traveled nearly 30,000 kilometers in 14 flights, with a total flight time approaching 400 hours. "Today, you can divide by two the energy consumption of the world - and therefore the CO2 emissions - with clean technologies that at the same time produce profit, create jobs, stimulate the industrial development, and the economical growth," Piccard told reporters Monday at the John F. Kennedy Airport after the aircraft landed in the New York early Saturday.
Last July, the pair was able to complete a 7,200-kilometer, continuous flight from Japan to Hawaii, and although they flew only in good weather, the level of innovation is likely to permeate many aspects of the economy in the future, according to Piccard.
As one can imagine, the journey has not been all smooth sailing. The pilots typically fly solo. Borschberg, who flew the Solar Impulse 2 for five days and nights for the Japan to Hawaii flight, said there were times when the project looked to be going downhill as some became frustrated when the project encountered obstacles. With favorable weather conditions, the Solar Impulse 2 plans to resume its journey within a week to set out for Europe.