Green plane can be a turnaround

Anything powered by the sun is considered elemental because solar energy is the most basic of all forms of energy available on the earth. It is also the most obvious and plentiful source of energy, and human beings and other living beings themselves depend on it for their survival.

Coal and oil have not played that role in the origin and evolution of life on earth. Therefore running the machines made by human beings with the power of the sun is an idea that has long been imagined and pursued. If living beings can directly draw on the power of the sun, man’s machines have to be made ready to run on the sun’s largesse. An aeroplane under the sun is the best suited for that.

One has been designed and it has taken to flight, though tentatively. The Solar Impulse 2, designed by a Swiss team of experts and engineers, is now on a round-the-world trip. The plane, which took off from Abu Dhabi on Monday, will fly against the rising sun for five months to complete its 35,200-km journey round the earth.

It is a demonstration flight to prove the point that green flights are possible. Aeroplanes use up a lot of fossil energy which pollutes the earth. Flights which harness the solar energy will be clean and may work out to be much cheaper in future. Solar Impulse 2 has thousands of solar cells on its wings and flies day and night, preserving energy during the day and using it in the night.

At 80 km per hour it may only beat bicycles and some birds, but its journey may turn out to be an important event in the history of aviation and the search for clean fuels. The trip is tedious, as the cabin is cramped and can accommodate only the pilot who is the sole traveller. Two pilots alternate among themselves to pilot the plane on its entire journey. It will also be great adventure for them, demanding courage, strength, perseverance and skills of the highest order, like the arduous explorations of the land and the seas in the past.

The success of Solar Impulse 2 can lead to development of better, larger and more sophisticated versions of the aircraft. Flights of solar-powered planes may become commercially viable and cheaper, and they may not demand a price from the environment. The progress of the plane is being watched round the clock all over the world. Its success might mark a historic flight into a green future.

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