Two Solar Aircraft Make History in One Week

Last week the
Solar Impulse 2 completed it's around-the-world flight
. This was a historic accomplishment for aviation...they made the entire flight using solar energy. I've been writing about this project since 2009 and it's awesome to finally see it completed. Congratulations to the Solar Impulse team!

Solar Impulse isn't a practical product by any means. It will never be directly commercialized itself, but that wasn't the goal of the project. The Solar Impulse team wanted to demonstrate that technology is advancing and that it is possible to do amazing things with renewable energy. I am confident that their accomplishments will help inspire the world to find new, innovative ways to take advantage of renewable energy both in aviation and in our earthbound pursuits.

Although this specific design isn't intended for commercial use, another big effort just happened to fly an aircraft that bears seems strikingly similar to the Solar Impulse last week. Billionaire Facebook mogul Mark Zuckerberg has decided that he wants to help provide global internet access. His project, internet.org, recently completed the first test flight of a drone they're calling Aquila. They're hoping to set records by having their drones fly for months on end, continuously beaming internet coverage to otherwise unreachable places. I have mixed feelings about drones, but this one does have some pretty interesting features. It's supposed to operate around FL600 (out of everyone's way) and stay aloft for a long time, while only using as much power as three hairdryers. If this isn't a cool and timely application of Solar Impulse's technology, I don't know what is. Congratulations to Facebook on your aircraft's first flight.

Here's their official video covering the event: