Flying for business is as much a part of corporate culture as formalwear and tablets, but up until now, professionals' only option has been to hop onto a loud, fuel-guzzling model where leg room costs extra. Pilots Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg officially opened up the door for another choice on Tuesday, July 26, 2016, completing the first around-the-world trip by a solar-powered airplane, the Solar Impulse 2.
Fuel? What Fuel?
Solar-powered flight could be a huge deal for businesses. Economically, consider this: Between 2010 and 2014, domestic business flights ranged from $877 to $990, while international business flights ranged from $2,499 to $2,525. Factors such as timing of the flight and how many seats are filled on the plane all contribute to ticket cost, but one of the biggest drivers behind those prices is airline fuel. If solar planes can eliminate fuel from the equation, booking a trip could become significantly more affordable, especially if you factor in the value of the time a flight could save.
Then there's branding to consider. Increasingly, consumers are supporting businesses that express environmental sensitivity. If a company's employees reflect an eco-friendly philosophy in travel as well as in production or service provision, consumers might see that brand more positively, taking how executives or other representatives move around as evidence that claims of planetary responsibility actually are valid. That might go a long way in establishing the trust required to develop long-term customer-business relationships.
Investing In The Future
The flight of Solar Impulse 2 proves that a green alternative to traditional planes is possible, but solar-powered flights as the norm is still a way off. Just bringing Solar Impulse 2 to fruition took more than a decade of work, and researchers and engineers would need to solve multiple logistical puzzles to create a passenger-oriented design. Thus, the takeaway for now is to look at the technology as a possibility for how you want to operate in the future, and to invest in development rather than looking for an immediate switch in transport. Give it time, and then aim for the skies in any way you can.