Solar-Plane Team Plans to Develop Drones After Record Flight

  • Pilots to continue promoting clean energy, lobby industries
  • Solar drones could help in communications, weather-forecasting

The 'Solar Impulse 2.'

Source: Solar Impulse via Getty Images

The Swiss team behind the record-breaking Solar Impulse round-the-world flight in a plane that used no fuel said they will press on with plans for drones powered by the sun’s rays.

Solar-powered drones could be used in communications and weather-forecasting, pilot Andre Borschberg said in a phone interview from Abu Dhabi, where the solar plane landed on Tuesday. Companies, including existing sponsors like Abu Dhabi’s Masdar, are interested in the project, though he ruled out uses for the defense industry.

‘‘We will make an unmanned version of the plane,” said Borschberg, who took turns at the controls with Bertrand Piccard to circumnavigate the globe in a journey that started March 2015 and spanned 43,041 kilometers. ‘‘It’s a bit early to say who is involved, but there’s a lot of interest.”

Technology giants Facebook Inc. and Google are also investing in the field. Solar drones could be used in domains that require observation and measurement such as forecasting hurricanes or assessing droughts to allocate resources more efficiently, Borschberg said. The pilots will focus on promoting clean energy to industries and politicians, he said.

Borschberg and Piccard plan to write a book about their journey and reckon this won’t be their last adventure.

"Will we do something crazy again?" he said. "Why not?"

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