The Swiss government has funded the Solar Impulse solar aircraft project to the tune of CHF6 million ($6.4 million) over the past eight years. In return, it gets to use the plane for promotional purposes.
The funds include the use of two air bases in Switzerland and a financial contribution for a campaign in the United States in 2013, according to the government promotion agency, Presence Switzerland (PRS).
In return, the government has the right to use the Solar Impulse activities for its own communication purposes.
Nicolas Bideau, head of PRS, says it is difficult to put a precise figure on additional lobbying services being provided by Swiss diplomats and ministers for the project.
“Without the aid of the government we would have had to go abroad with our project,” co-pilot André Borschberg is quoted as saying in Wednesday’s editions of the Tages-Anzeiger and Der Bund newspapers.
The overall budget for the project is CHF150 million, with most of it coming from private sources. Its four main partners and six official partners contribute between CHF10-20 million each, in addition to in-kind contributions based on their area of expertise.
Under a treaty signed by the project leaders and the foreign ministry 12 months ago, a technician of the Federal Aviation Office is responsible for the maintenance of the solar-powered aircraft.
He is also in charge of organising the various permits for the long-range Solar Impulse 2, which is attempting to circle the globe in 12 stages over five months.
Take off from Abu Dhabi is scheduled for the end of February. The project is mainly privately financed and hopes to achieve the first circumnavigation of the Earth by a piloted fixed-wing aircraft using only solar power.
Urs Geiser, swissinfo.ch