The zero-emission airplane?

solarimpulse.jpgIf you love to travel, but hate to pollute, an intrepid team of engineers and aviators is working on the airplane for you — one that flies on solar energy.

Bertrand Piccard, a Frenchman whose resume includes flying around the world in a balloon, plans to fly a solar airplane around the world as well. His team has built a model of their concept, called SolarImpulse, and they plan to launch a piloted prototype sometime next year. The airplane will be able to take off on its own, without being towed or lifted, and then fly for several days nonstop without any fuel. Solar cells mounted on its long, skinny wings, almost 300 feet across, will provide the power. During the day, batteries will recharge to provide power overnight.

The round-the-world flight is scheduled for sometime in 2010 or 2011, and it may be a while after that before you can find one of these at an airport near you. It’s a neat idea but not going to relieve our carbon craving anytime soon.