The idea behind the solar impulse project was simple, even if undertaking the project was anything but. The team, led by co-pilots Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, wanted to demonstrate the value of clean technology. The point they make is that clean technology is not something that requires sacrifices in other areas (such as the economy), but that it can reduce emissions and improve quality of life at the same time.
In 2004, Bertrand Piccard put the wheels in motion of what has transpired as being one of the greatest adventures in the history of flight. His vision was for “the worlds of exploration and innovation to make a contribution to the cause of renewable energies.” To really capture the imagination of the public and generate enthusiasm, the quest to develop clean technologies needs to be made into an adventure. In a similar vein, they wanted to demonstrate to governments that the need to respond to climate change through developing clean technology does not need to be seen as a problem, but rather as an opportunity.
Of course, with every adventure comes an element of risk. And the Solar Impulse adventure is no different. While the pilots were supported by a substantial and dedicated team, they could not avoid danger all together. Indeed, the perils of the journey were highlighted by the damage caused to the aircraft on the Hawaii leg of the journey. Thankfully, as the team move towards the end of their epic flight, there have been no serious safety issues.
Next up, we discuss the implications of the Solar Impulse flight from a technological point of view and ask if solar energy could one day be used for commercial aircraft.