Ahmedabad: Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg, two Swiss pilots who are attempting to fly around the-world in a solar-powered plane, want 1.2 billion Indians to support their campaign for use of renewable energy for protecting the global environment.
Piccard, who piloted the Muscat-Ahmedabad leg of the Solar Impulse flight last night, said, "Most important thing for us is that we could put this badge on. We could put India on our sleeves."
A psychiatrist by training, Piccard said a lot of hard work from innovation to technology to engineering and seeking government permissions in many countries has gone into the Solar Impulse 2 (Si2) project.
The wings of the Solar Impulse 2 are covered by more than 17,000 solar cells that recharge the plane's batteries. It flies ideally at around 25 knots, or 45 kph (28 mph).
It will next fly to Varanasi and is then slated to make 12 stops during its 35,000-kilometer journey, including in China and Myanmar, before it crosses over the Pacific Ocean.
"We can hardly believe that we are on our way," he said after the solar-powered plane made successful flight from Abu Dhabi to Ahmedabad via Muscat.
He said the world was faced with new challenges like medical research, fighting poverty, protection of environment, better governance and human rights and the Si2 flight was about spreading the awareness about these issues.
He hoped to garner support from Indian population for their campaign 'Future is Clean'. "We have launched a campaign on our website. We can have 1.2 billion signatures from India," he said.
"When we go to UN conferences and other forums, we want to tell them that climate change is not an expensive problem but an opportunity to put new technologies (renewable energy technologies) on the market," Piccard, a third generation innovator, said.
Piccard said there were many prominent persons who supported the campaign of Solar Impulse team but it was important that more and more people announce their support for this cause.
Borschberg, an Engineer by training and a military pilot by hobby, said using renewable energy, impossible things can be achieved.
"This is what we want to show," Broschberg, who flew the maiden leg of the flight from Abu Dhabi to Muscat, said.
He said India was not a random choice for the Solar impulse team but reflection of close cooperation between companies based out of the country for making the Si2 possible.
"India was not a random choice. It is important for us personally. Last year, we initiated contact (with stakeholders in India) and the response was truly fantastic. There is Ahmedabad in the plane because you have research and products that come from here," Borschberg said.
Among the 80 global partners, Aditya Birla group, Solway and ABB India have provided key support to the Solar Impulse team to make the flight a success.
Subir Pal, ABB's president for the Discrete Automation and Motion in India, thanked the Solar Impulse team for taking on the challenge of putting the focus on renewable energy.
Pal said there were other areas where renewable energy could be used to improve the lives of the people while protecting the environment at the same time.
Three engineers from ABB India are part of the Solar Impulse crew with two of them stationed in the control room in Monaco while the third travels with the mobile hangar for the aircraft.