News / Science & Technology

Solar-Powered Plane to Soar Over US

Solar Impulse flying over Paris in 2011. (© Solar Impulse | Jean Revillard )
Solar Impulse flying over Paris in 2011. (© Solar Impulse | Jean Revillard )
Suzanne Presto
Solar Impulse - a solar-powered Swiss plane - will take to the skies over the United States later this year, flying from the west coast to the east coast, without a drop of fuel. 

The mission's two pilots, who are also the co-founders of Solar Impulse, told reporters at Moffett Air Field in California that the plan is to fly to New York in five legs, landing in major airports in each of the destinations along the way.  The solar-powered trip will last from May until July, with stops of a week or so in each location.

Pilot Bertrand Piccard says one of the goals is to demonstrate the power of innovation.

"Showing that with solar power, with clean technologies, with energy efficiency, with ultra-light materials, we can bring a lot of solutions to the problems of sustainability," said Piccard.  

He added that the aim is to protect the environment, "but also to create jobs, to make profit for corporations, to sustain growth, thanks to this technological innovation."  

TECHNOLOGICAL INNOVATION

The plane certainly is innovative, resembling a glider or an insect more than a traditional plane.  Its slim cockpit can seat just one person, and the craft has the wingspan of a jumbo jet, measuring more than 60 meters.

The top side of the plane's wings is covered in solar panels that convert the sun's rays into electricity.  That energy powers the craft and recharges the batteries so the plane can fly at night.  The solar cells are about as thick as a human hair.  

It's an engineering feat to create an aircraft that is light enough to fly day and night on solar power.  In fact, the carbon-fiber craft weighs only as much as a small car, about 1,600 kilograms, including the pilot.       

PILOTS

Pilot André Borschberg flew Solar Impulse on its first solar-powered night flight in 2010.  That trip lasted 26 hours, but Borschberg says for this coming mission, he and fellow pilot Piccard have limited themselves to no more than 24 hours in the air at a time.     

"Now, this airplane could do it non-stop, but this airplane has no autopilot, and for safety reasons, for security - as the pilot is not as sustainable as the technology, at least yet -- we have limited ourselves to 24-hour duration," Borschberg said, prompting a laugh from the audience.

The two men will take turns flying and alternate for each leg.  

RECORD-SETTING MISSIONS

Pilot Piccard also is no stranger to breaking records, and he made the first non-stop balloon flight around the world.  Piccard says he is driven to do what people say cannot be done, adding that people spend much of their lives avoiding the unknown.  

"As soon as you start to love the unknown, to love the doubts, to love the question marks, life becomes an absolutely fabulous adventure, and this is what Solar Impulse is about," said Piccard.  

This coming U.S. adventure is a precursor to Solar Impulse's planned solar-powered flight around the world in 2015.

You May Like

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debatei
X
Shelley Schlender
July 24, 2014 6:43 PM
In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Death Toll From Israel-Gaza Conflict Surpasses 700

Gaza officials say a shelling hit a compound housing a United Nations-run school in the Gaza Strip, killing more than a dozen people, during an Israeli offensive in the area. Heavy fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas militants continued on Thursday, pushing up the death toll. So far, more than 730 Palestinians and 35 Israelis have been killed in the conflict. VOA's Scott Bobb has the latest from Jerusalem.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Researchers Target Low-Cost Avatar Technology

Scientists at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies say 3-dimensional representations could revolutionize social media. Elizabeth Lee has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid