Earlier today Solar Impulse, considered the world's most-advanced solar powered plane, touched down at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, Arizona following a 20-hour flight from San Francisco. The creators of the plane, Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg, say their cross-country trip will make history as the first such attempt by an "airplane that is able to fly day and night just on solar power." The plane landed safely, having only used up three-quarters of its battery power.
More importantly than this aviation milestone, Piccard and Borschberg hope that the trip will raise awareness of the potential of renewable energy technology. "What we look for is to have a new milestone in this very exciting history of aviation that can attract interest of the people, of the political world, of the media and show that with renewable energies and clean technology for energy efficiency, we can achieve impossible things," Piccard said.
Photo credit: Solar Impulse | F. Merz
In 2012 Piccard and Borschberg completed the world's first fully solar-powered intercontinental flight, flying the Solar Impulse from Spain to Morocco. The plane is powered by 12,000 photovoltaic cells on the wings which charge its batteries and is able to fly at speeds of around 40mph.
From Phoenix, the aircraft will travel to Dallas, St. Louis, and Dulles before landing in New York. Each leg of the journey will take around 19-25 hours. Although Solar Impulse is vulnerable to bad weather, can't fly through clouds, and its creators say that solar planes will not replace conventional fuel-powered commercial flights, the cross-country trip is still an amazing and spectacular way to highlight the potential of solar power.