Two Swiss scientists have officially completed a flight across the Pacific on an aircraft entirely powered by the sun.
It sounds like a story straight out of science fiction: a solar-powered plane coasts for days, relying completely on the energy generated from the sun to power its flight.
Science has accomplished just that. This past Saturday, Swiss explorer and psychiatrist Bertrand Piccard piloted the Solar Impulse 2 for a two-and-a-half day long flight across the Pacific Ocean, touching down in Mountain View, California.
The plane did not use a single drop of fuel for the entirety of the flight from Hawaii to the West Coast; instead, it was entirely powered by the sun. Because the plane travels at roughly the same speed as a car, the entire flight took just over 62 hours to complete. As Piccard told CNN after his touchdown:
“It’s a new era. It’s not science fiction. It’s today. It exists and clean technologies can do the impossible.”
The aircraft boasts of a wingspan the size of a Boeing 747, yet weighs only as much as an average-sized SUV. While there is still progress to be made in terms of weight capacity (i.e. the plane cannot currently carry passengers), it is certainly only a matter of time before this model transitions into the commercial aircraft industry.
Piccard’s business partner and the co-pilot, Swiss engineer Andre Borschberg, told CNN, “I’m very happy that everything works extremely well and the airplane is functioning as it should. It’s a demonstration that the tech is reliable.”
His certainty – backed by the proof of a successful flight – only solidifies that the world truly can rely on clean technologies as we advance into the future. The fact alone that an aircraft powered only through solar energy is capable of flying across the Pacific successfully makes the transition to solar-powered cars, buildings, and cities seem more than obtainable.
With solar farms, including solar airports, popping up everywhere, it would appear that reliance on this type of energy is within reach; this, coupled with other green technologies, undoubtedly is a step in a positive direction. Hopefully green science continues to prosper as it will allow the world to step away from outdated, toxic methods of energy like fossil fuels and coal and move forward with cleaner and more sustainable methods.
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