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Solar-powered unmanned aircraft to be developed

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The solar powered Swiss aircraft Solar Impulse 2 in Ahmedabad. A PTI Photo

AHMEDABAD (PTI): Elated by the successful completion of the first leg of 'round-the-world' trip in a solar-powered aircraft, CEO of the Solar Impulse Project Andre Borschberg on Wednesday said he and his partners wanted to develop its unmanned version.

Solar Impulse 2, developed under the Project and claimed to be the world's only solar-powered aircraft, landed here on Tuesday night.

"One more potential project to be developed is an unmanned version of this air plane. It shall be capable of flying at a height of 20,000 m. It will be cheap and sustainable and we will try to make it in next five years," Borschberg told reporters here.

"We want to work on new and innovative ideas and newer clean energy technologies," The 62-year-old Swiss pilot said, adding, "It may happen that it could be an Indian company which can help to innovate an unmanned version."

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) such as drones, are used by defence forces, run on conventional fuels or rechargeable batteries.

Borschberg and his partner and president of the Solar Impulse Project Bertrand Piccard were talking to media at the city airport.

Asked about commercial viability of solar-powered aircraft, Piccard said they wanted to open the door for newer technologies through this project.

"Today we do not have the technology to transport 200 passengers in a solar-powered airplane. But the Wright brothers who first flew the airplane 111 years ago...neither of them had thought that the technology would be used in transportation," Piccard noted.

The aircraft, which does not use "a drop of fuel" but runs on lithium batteries that are charged by solar cells on its wings, will fly next to Varanasi, and then to China.

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