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

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid