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Misconceptions: We hear that “flying is bad”, that “flying causes climate change”, that we must “avoid flying at any cost”, even that “we should be ashamed of flying”. There are many companies offering carbon offsetting for flights only – as if only flying would produce carbon emissions...

This is plain wrong: Flying is not bad in itself – flying on fossil fuels is bad!

As with cars and other “technology toys”, the problem is how we power the toys, not the toys themselves. After we have moved from fossil to renewable fuels, flying or driving won’t be a problem anymore.

That’s why I was so glad to read in the news in the last days about two technological breakthroughs:

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) flew for 7 days non-stop
The UK-built Zephyr solar-powered plane, developed by aerospace company Qinetiq, is “basically the first eternal aircraft”. With a wingspan of 22.5m, it can be used as a reconnaissance, communications, or observation platform. Low-Earth orbiting satellites keep coming back to the same spot but can’t stay on this spot continuously. Drones can but have to return to base for refuelling periodically. The Zephyr can theoretically circle over the same spot forever.

Experimental solar-powered plane Solar Impulse completed first night test flight
The Solar Impulse’s night flight was powered only by solar energy stored during the day. With a 63.4-metre wingspan – equivalent to an A340 Airbus – it weighs only 1,600kg and has 12,000 solar panels. The Swiss-led project came closer to its goal of circumnavigating the globe on photovoltaic only.

We shouldn’t be so naive to think that this alone will suffice. Photovoltaic won’t replace conventional jet propulsion technology any time soon. But it’s a start in the right direction.

We must rethink the whole flying business and make flying a fun thing again while making it environmentally friendly. Flying has become a terrible experience. Too many people crowded in too big planes making big detours due to the hub and spoke system.

Smaller planes carrying fewer people and flying directly to the desired destination would be a great improvement. Maybe even reintroducing blimps on photovoltaic? It might take longer but flying low over beautiful landscapes would be such a fun experience!

Flying is cool. Flying on photovoltaic is pure coolness. Keep up with the good work, guys!


Certified Coolness: Cool living on a cool planet