One of the most exciting aircraft to be displayed at the upcoming Paris Air Show is the HB-SIA, a single passenger plane designed to run entirely on solar energy. “HB-SIA was built by a Swiss-based project called Solar Impulse, which was set up by Bertrand Piccard, an adventurer who helped to pilot the first balloon to fly around the world, and André Borschberg, a fighter pilot and engineer. Their ultimate aim with Solar Impulse is to build an aircraft that can circle the world using only the power of the sun.”
What’s the Big Idea?
How close are we to having solar-powered airplanes? “Airliners capable of carrying passengers and which rely only on energy from the sun are far into the future, if they ever appear. But lightweight construction techniques, solar cells and battery technologies are constantly advancing. An unmanned solar-powered drone has already stayed aloft for two weeks and some battery-powered electric trainer aircraft are also being developed. Just as the Wright brothers showed, no one really knows where such adventures will lead.”