Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg set out and accomplished something that still seems impossible today: the First Round-The-World Solar Flight, powered only by the sun, with no fuel or polluting emissions.
In line with the Piccard Family tradition of scientific exploration and protection of the environment, Solar Impulse wanted to demonstrate that clean technologies can achieve impossible goals.
The record breaking solo flight of 5 days and 5 nights without fuel from Nagoya to Hawaii gives a clear message : everybody could use the plane’s technologies on the ground to halve our world’s energy consumption, save natural resources and improve our quality of life. This message will continue to be spread by the pilots to the general public, students, key decision-makers and entrepreneurs all over the world.
A new Utopia? A beautiful scene from science fiction? No, a cutting-edge technological challenge! A sufficiently eccentric project to appeal to one’s emotions and get one’s adrenalin pumping: to harness a clean and renewable form of energy, and use it to fly night and day without limit.
The adventure began with Bertrand Piccard’s vision that clean technologies and energy efficiency can reduce our emissions and improve our quality of life. It led up to the attempt of the First Round-The-World Solar Flights, with in July 2015 André Borschberg’s 5-day 5-night record-breaking flight from Japan to Hawaii, using only the power of the sun. Not sci-fi, but eccentric enough to appeal to the people’s emotions and get their adrenalin pumping. It would have made a great Jules Verne story a few decades back.
«A Jules Verne dream of today means the urge to explore the unknown and the force to do good, which must continue to inspire human beings. Take your time, be patient and determined, wrote my great grandfather Jules Verne, for everything great that has ever been achieved in the world, is the result of exaggerated ambitions. And it is this spirit that Bertrand Piccard symbolizes best in this project, which is ambitious but of universal benefit to mankind.»
One could easily imagine oneself in a Jules Verne novel: a team wanting to promote renewable energies sets off round the world in a solar airplane, aiming to fly without fuel or pollution…
By writing the next pages in aviation history with solar energy, and voyaging around the world without fuel or pollution, meeting the public enthusiasm, Solar Impulse is the messenger for Bertrand Piccard’s initial vision, written in 2004:
« Our ambition for Solar Impulse is for the worlds of exploration and innovation to make a contribution to the cause of renewable energies. We want to demonstrate the importance of clean technologies for sustainable development; and to place dreams and emotions back at the heart of scientific adventure.
The public, which gets excited about great adventures, is ready to join the dreams of pioneers and explorers. Solar Impulse wants to mobilize this enthusiasm in favor of technologies that will allow decreased dependence on fossil fuels and induce positive emotions about renewable energies.
Public attention must be drawn towards the changes necessary to ensure our planet’s energy and ecological future. Also, a positive and stimulating image of environmental protection must demonstrate that the alternative energy sources, related to new technologies, can achieve what some consider impossible. »
« The problem with our society is that, despite all the grand talk about sustainable development, we are a long way from making use of the clean technologies that are already available to us. Those solutions bring opportunities to create jobs, make profit, sustain the growth of the industry, and at the same time protect the environment. »
So when the world decided to react in 2015, by setting ambitious goals during the COP21 climate conference, Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg were of course there to show decision makers that climate change is not an expensive problem requiring heavy financial and behavioral sacrifices, but rather a unique opportunity.
Solar Impulse descends directly from a long tradition of exploration, scientific development and protection of the environment. Never before has one family had such an impact on the world of exploration as Auguste, Jacques and Bertrand Piccard.
This dynasty has been inventing and exploring for three generations: with the grandfather came the pressurized capsule and the first flight in the stratosphere, with the father, the bathyscaphe and the absolute deep-sea diving record, and with the son, the first non-stop, round-the-world, balloon flight. But what each father passed on to his son was not only the passion for adventure, but also the will to improve life on Earth and protect the environment.
« The question now is not so much whether humans can go even further afield and populate other planets, but rather how to organize things so that life on Earth becomes more worthy of living. »
Auguste Piccard, 1931
« The public has not yet woken up to the extent and seriousness of the problem of pollution. »
Jacques Piccard, 1972
« Adventure in the 21st Century consists of applying human creativity and the pioneering spirit to developing a quality of life which present and future generations have a right to expect. »
Bertrand Piccard, 2004
Physicist, explorer of the stratosphere, first man to see the curvature of the earth, he paved the way for modern aviation.Learn more
A worthy successor to Captain Nemo, the deepest man in the world, a pioneer of ecology committed to the protection of oceans.Learn more
Explorer with a philosophical vision, he seeks to promote pioneering spirit and innovation to tackle the great challenges of our time.Learn more
Bertrand Piccard’s vision, coupled with André Borschberg’s entrepreneurial mindset, and the skills of a multi-disciplinary team, have enabled an idea to become a reality. And this even though no aviation specialist, apart from Dassault, believed it could be possible: “Too big, too light and impossible to control in flight”, they all said.
« If an airplane has succeeded to fly day and night without fuel, then we can power our world on clean energy. »
Solar Impulse was born in Switzerland, from the minds of two Swiss pioneers, but it’s in fact a very multicultural project. Not only do the team members, patrons and partners come from various fields and nationalities, but the plane has travelled all over the world since the European flights of 2010, with the idea of inspiring people to achieve the impossible, thanks to pioneering spirit and clean technologies.