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Explorer’s Globe Circling Solar Flight Inspiration for Tackling the Impossible

By Media Office Staff

Explorer, psychologist, and environmental advocate Bertrand Piccard set a record by circumnavigating the world in a fixed wing solar aircraft without using a single drop of fuel.

The flight, led by Piccard and Swiss entrepreneur André Borschberg, was accomplished solely with power from photovoltaic panels. The Solar Impulse 2 aircraft launched from the United Arab Emirates’ capital of Abu Dhabi in March 2015 and ended July 2016.

The spirit of accomplishing a seemingly impossible task was the focus of Piccard’s Sept. 10 talk at the California Energy Commission. Piccard denounced cynicism to new ideas as a detriment to society.

The impossible should be attempted precisely “because it’s never been done,” he said.

“Anything we do has really big challenges on earth,” Piccard said.

Piccard is no stranger to tackling lofty challenges. He began setting records in 1999, with co-balloonist Brian Jones, with the first successful nonstop balloon orbit of the world in the Breitling Orbiter 3. The journey led to the hot air balloon being redesigned. Piccard used additional fuel cells and cylinders, enabling the balloon to travel for longer durations under greater weather variation.

His next innovation was the Solar Impulse, an aircraft that was 10 times lighter than any plane of its kind. A team of engineers from different fields constructed the craft, which was designed to be lightweight and energy efficient. The Solar Impulse’s wingspan was 208 feet, which is almost the wingspan of a jumbo jet, but consumed the energy of a scooter.

Piccard’s talk at the Energy Commission dovetails with his interest to raise awareness about environmentally and economically sustainable practices, which is the goal of the World Alliance for Efficient Solutions, which he co-founded with Borschberg.

The organization promotes new business ideas that are environmentally sustainable and can unite investors, innovators, and opportunity-seekers. It intends on selecting 1,000 of the most promising ideas for presentation to governments, businesses and institutions to encourage the adoption of ambitious environmental targets and energy policies.

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