European Commission announces patronage of the solar-powered Solar Impulse aircraft project
From left: Bertrand Piccard, Christine de Veyrac, Jacques Barrot, André Borschberg
Thu 10 Apr 2008 – The environmental credentials of the Swiss-based Solar Impulse aeroplane were recognized by the European Commission yesterday in a ceremony at the European Parliament. Jacques Barrot, the Commission’s Vice President with responsibility for Transport, said it was “an example that should be followed by all players within society, a symbol of what we should be aspiring to.”
The first Solar Impulse prototype, the HB-SIA, is currently being built near Zurich and test flights are scheduled to begin in early 2009. The emission-free aircraft is powered exclusively by solar panels and once tests have been successfully completed, the aim is to fly it around the world.
“A world without the aeroplane is unimaginable,” said Barrot. “But we still do not have a blueprint for the aeroplane of the future, an environmentally-friendly aeroplane. Taking today’s technologies and materials to their limits and beyond to accelerate the emergence of tomorrow’s technologies is the challenge embodied by the Solar Impulse project.”
The project is the brainchild of the renowned balloonist and underwater explorer Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, who is the CEO and pilot. “I admire those who have the political courage to force our society to extract itself from its dependency on fossil fuels,” said Piccard. “By becoming a symbol of Europe’s commitment to clean mobility, Solar Impulse undertakes to do its bit to convey renewable energies as an opportunity that should not pass us by.”
Borschberg said that research carried out within the project had shown that impressive quantities of energy can be saved and the project had been invaluable in triggering developments that could arise in areas other than aviation.
The presentation was organized by French MEP and Member of the Committee on Transport, Christine de Veyrac. “Fighting against climate change by dissuading people from air travel is absurd: what we need to do is reconcile mobility and respect for the environment, which is the very essence of the Solar Impulse project,” she said. “This project should not only spawn technological advances due to the innovations necessary for its success, but also raise awareness among Europeans of the need to respect the environment and put the spotlight on the problem of depleting energy resources.”
Backers for the project include the Solvay Group, Omega and Deutsche Bank.