This Solar-Powered Aircraft Is Making History Above the Clouds (Video)

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Climate change, for many, is the single-most important issue of our day and the one fraught with the most dire implications. The notion of a disappearing planet whose atmosphere can no longer support animal or plant life is terrifying, and is the impetus for many bold measures being taken by companies, politicians, and others looking to make a difference. From San Francisco requiring certain new buildings to be outfitted with solar panels to Atmosphere recently releasing a video powered entirely by solar energy, there are countless opportunities out there, big and small, to affect some meaningful changes to combat global warming, and one particularly impactful realm of potential is in the world of travel. Energy efficient vehicles have become more and more commonplace, but until the majority of drivers are operating cars not reliant on fuel, the trend isn’t likely to make a big dent in carbon emission rates (although it most certainly isn’t hurting). However, means of transportation like trains and jets, which require far more fuel to operate, could really become the most promising test case yet, and one solar-powered airplane is leading the way.

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NPR’s Bill Chappell recently reported on the Solar Impulse, an aircraft energized entirely with solar power. Earlier today (June 20), it took off from New York City’s John F. Kennedy Airport, armed with a historic mission: cross the Atlantic Ocean. Scheduled to arrive in Spain on Thursday, this plane has already managed to log hours of international air travel in her books, but because the technology is so new and experimental, each of her voyages is rightfully celebrated with much excitement. Last year, the Solar Impulse broke the world record for the longest duration nonstop solo flight when pilot André Borschberg flew her from Nagoya, Japan, to Hawaii in 120 hours. Together with her flights to places like Abu Dhabi, China, India, and the United States, today’s trip to Spain and last year’s Polynesian voyage are all chapters in Solar Impulse’s circumnavigation plan. An ambitious goal to fly around the planet might not sound that impressive considering how advanced air travel has become, but in the era of drastic climate disasters continue to threaten our way of life, a solar-powered plane which could potentially eradicate the need for fuel harmful to the environment is thrilling.

And, what would a modern-day aviation triumph be without the incorporation of live video? Now, those interested in how Solar Impulse and her trusty pilot Bertrand Piccard are getting on can watch a live stream of the pair’s journey from New York to the South of Spain. With a busy YouTube channel, there have been a handful of videos uploaded that show just how incredible Solar Impulse’s technology is, including a 360 version that is breathtaking.

Naturally, the very ahead-of-the-curve Solar Impulse has her own Twitter account, where supporters can stay up-to-date about the latest history being made while close enough to touch the sky.