Energy Technology

Solar airplane completes 4,000-mile journey from Switzerland to Morocco, and back

Written by Sven Eberlein

This is the kind of news that gives me hope…

Solar Powered Airplane Makes First Intercontinental Round-trip Flight

A unique airplane has just completed a 6,000 km journey, making the first solar-powered intercontinental round-trip air journey. Traveling between Europe and Africa, the Solar Impulse experimental solar airplane landed in Payerne, Switzerland at 08:30 pm local time on July 24, 2012. The trip began two months ago, on May 24 and so was not a test to see how fast it could make the trip, but to assess the endurance and reliability of the craft, as well as bringing awareness to more people of energy issues.

and here’s some visuals, it’s like a gigantic dragonfly gracefully coasting through the air…

In June, the Solar Impulse became the first solar-powered aircraft to complete an intercontinental flight that lasted 19 hours and through night time, flying from Madrid to Morroco. Known as the 2012 Crossing Frontiers mission, the Solar Impulse’s journey has taken it across Switzerland, France, Spain and Morocco in eight legs consisting of about 800 kilometers (497 miles) each.

The gigantic, but ultra-lightweight dimensions of this revolutionary airplane – capable of flying day and night without fuel – are its trademark feature. To build it, the whole team had to push back the frontiers of knowledge in materials science, energy management and the man-machine interface. Every one of its take-offs, propelled silently by its four electric motors, inspires us to consider using clean, new technologies to free our society, little by little, from dependence on fossil energy.

The Solar Impulse is not only a technological marvel, but is actually designed to fill a good citizen role intended to “provoke discussions amongst the highest political and economic authorities about technological solutions currently available to help them achieve the world’s agreed CO2 reduction targets.”

As one of the pilots, Bertrand Piccard, says:

“Our airplane is not designed to carry passengers, but to carry a message.”

And speaking of pilots and on a personal note, my cousin’s ex-husband is one of the test pilots for the Solar Impulse. Here he is, talking about the plane and his team…


I’m not one of those people who believes that technology holds all the solutions to the ecological crisis we find ourselves in, but when I look at the beauty of this plane and all it represents, I really believe that when it is used for the right reasons and with spirit and imagination, it is capable of being a catalyst for the much larger transformation of consciousness that needs to take place.

The solar airplane provokes discussions amongst the highest political and economic authorities about technological solutions currently available to help them achieve the world’s agreed CO2 reduction targets. And it also allows them to tackle the problem of resistance to change, which risks locking us for too long into the dangerous and costly consequences of old habits. It is with the aim of promoting such processes of change that Europe is using Solar Impulse, to give an example of what clean technology is capable of achieving.

While the Solar Impulse has demonstrated that a solar-powered airplane can fly day and night using no fuel and has set the world record for the farthest distance covered by a solar-powered aircraft, it is far from done: The next challenge is to fly around the world.

I hope that someday I will be able to take a solar plane from San Francisco to Frankfurt.

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Sven Eberlein

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