(Bloomberg) -- Swiss pilot Andre Borschberg flew around the Statue of Liberty in the dark early-morning hours, regaling New York’s nightlife with a view of how renewable energy might one day power flying vehicles and drones.

Borschberg, 63, circled the monument for more than an hour Saturday until about 3 a.m. local time. Onlookers could see the solar-powered plane’s flying lights soaring around Alexandre Eiffel’s masterpiece, which was illuminated on a clear moonless night. The plane then headed to John F. Kennedy International Airport to complete its crossing of the U.S.

‘‘It’s symbolic,” he said in an interview before the flight. ‘‘It’s a way to pay tribute to the fantastic welcome we’ve received in this country.”

The Solar Impulse project is getting closer to completing a world tour in an ultralight one-man aircraft intended to show how technology might provide solutions to combat global warming. Borschberg, a former Swiss air force pilot, has been taking turns with Bertrand Piccard, 58, as they circumnavigate the globe without using any fuel. Solar Impulse is considering using its know-how to develop solar drones that could do things such as monitor the oceans or follow hurricanes.

Piccard, who achieved fame by taking part in the first successful round-the-world flight in a hot-air balloon, will fly the plane next over the Atlantic Ocean. Typically he only sleeps 10 20-minute naps every 24 hours on such trips, sustaining himself the rest of the time with breaks during which he puts the plane on auto-pilot and hypnotizes himself.

‘‘I’m confident for the Atlantic,” Piccard said in the interview. ‘‘It will take four to six days maybe, it depends on the tail winds. It’s an adventure, it’s not a business plan.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Thomas Mulier in Geneva at To contact the editors responsible for this story: Matthew Boyle at, Steve Geimann, Marthe Fourcade

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