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

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ebola Lockdown May Be Extended

Lockdown, which started Friday, aims to allow health workers to locate hidden Ebola patients, educate others on how to avoid the deadly disease More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As the tumult in the Middle East distracts Obama, shifting American focus eastward appears threatened More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid