Abu Dhabi: At the final stage of the first round-the-world trip on a solar plane backed by Abu Dhabi, Bertrand Piccard, the co-founder and co-pilot of Solar Impulse-2, wants to work with Abu Dhabi again on his next dream project.
“One of my best dreams will be developing an electric plane [that will drastically cut carbon emissions caused by the aviation sector] with Mubadala [Abu Dhabi Government’s development and investment company],” Piccard told Gulf News in a telephone interview from Cairo from where he was scheduled to fly to Abu Dhabi early Sunday on the last leg of the global trip.
Before embarking on the first circumnavigation across the globe on the solar plane, he had explained that it was more of a symbolic project to promote the potential of clean energy than making solar commercial flight a reality very soon.
However, he has already predicted that electric planes, run by electric motors rather than petrol engines and possibly powered by solar batteries, would be a reality in the next ten years. “Battery-driven aeroplanes with two to four seats will be available in less than three years. And I bet that in 10 years, commercial short-haul flights will transport 50 passengers at a time in fully electric carriers,” Piccard wrote in a recent article.
However, he told Gulf News that the electric plane may come from the non-aviation sector as happened in the case of the electric car. “The world of aviation is very conventional. [Hence] it will probably come from other actors … other industries.” For example the first best electric car was not made by a conventional car manufacturer but Tesla Motors [an American automotive and energy storage company that designs, manufactures, and sells electric cars]. “We have to expect it from unexpected quarters,” Piccard said.
But he would like to work with Mubadala to make it happen [instead of waiting for it to happen from unexpected quarters]. He said that Mubadala has the capability to work towards this dream project. “It is a very good company. And we [Solar Impulse] have engineers and experts.”
He was referring to Mubadala’s aerospace division that has a global network of aerospace businesses.
Masdar, Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, supported the Solar Impulse 2’s ambitious round-the-world trip. The Masdar-backed plane started its epic journey from Abu Dhabi in March 2015 and reached Cairo on July 13. A scheduled take-off of the plane from Cairo on July 17 was cancelled due to high winds in Cairo and heatwave on the flight path in Saudi Arabia. Piccard also fell sick that day, although he recovered early last week. The flight is again scheduled to take off early on Sunday. But a Solar Impulse spokesperson said there was a possibility of a last-minute cancellation due to high winds in Cairo.
Andre Borschberg, co-founder and co-pilot of Solar Impulse-2 (Si-2), flew the plane from Spain to Cairo, marking the penultimate leg of the first round-the-world solar flight. It was also the last flight of Borschberg in this epic mission, before Piccard takes the controls for the last leg to Abu Dhabi.