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Round-the-world solar flightclen

Swiss pioneers Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg complete the first ever round-the-world solar flight
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Round-the-world solar flight

Taking turns at the controls of Solar Impulse 2 (Si2) – the zero-emission electric and solar aeroplane that’s capable of flying day and night without fuel – Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg have succeeded in their crazy dream of achieving the first ever round-the-world solar flight.

A historic day

Landing back in Abu Dhabi yesterday (26 July) after a total of 23 days of flight and 43,041km travelled in 17 legs, Si2 has shown that clean technologies can ‘achieve the impossible’.

Beyond this historic milestone, the two Swiss pioneers will continue to urge the global implementation of energy-efficient solutions through the creation of the International Committee for Clean Technologies. They intend to leverage the expertise and technology gained over the years in Solar Impulse by launching new innovative projects, such as the development of solar powered drones.

‘Solar Impulse has flown more than 40,000 kilometers without fuel, but with an inexhaustible supply of energy and inspiration. This is a historic day for Captain Piccard and the Solar Impulse team, but it is also a historic day for humanity.

‘You may be ending your around the world flight today, but the journey to a more sustainable world is just beginning. The Solar Impulse team is helping to pilot us to that future.’

UN Secretary-General

19 world records

Coming from Egypt, Bertrand Piccard landed in Abu Dhabi at 4:05 local time on 26 July, completing the final leg of an endeavour that was until now considered impossible: flying around the globe in an electric aeroplane powered only by the sun and capable of flying many days and nights in a row without fuel.

This landing completes a full circle for the historic circumnavigation that began on 9 March 2015 when Si2 set off from Abu Dhabi with André Borschberg at the controls.

‘Flying one leg with a completely new type of airplane is difficult enough, but flying around the world is a real challenge. More than a demonstration, it’s the confirmation that these technologies are truly dependable and reliable.

‘There is so much potential for the aeronautical world: while one hundred percent solar powered airplanes might take longer to materialise, electric airplanes will develop in the near future because of their tremendous advantages such as energy efficiency.’

CEO, co-founder and pilot of Solar Impulse

Taking turns in the single-seater 3.8m3 cockpit, Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg have flown Si2 around the world in 17 legs, crossing Asia, the Pacific Ocean, the USA, the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea and the Middle East.

A total of 19 world records were set or are still pending by the World Air Sports Federation (FAI), in particular when André Borschberg accomplished the pioneering first of flying five consecutive days and nights over the Pacific Ocean from Japan to Hawaii. This is the longest duration a solo aeroplane of any kind has ever flown. Bertrand Piccard achieved the historic first crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in a solar aeroplane.

Accomplishing the impossible

For the two Swiss pioneers, it’s the accomplishment of a dream that was considered impossible by many experts and the demonstration that renewable energies and efficient technologies offer tangible solutions for sustainability.

Bertrand Piccard, an explorer and medical doctor at heart, had the vision of an aeroplane of perpetual endurance after his non-stop round the world balloon flight in 1999, when he made the promise to circumnavigate the Earth again – but this time without any fuel.

‘This is not only a first in the history of aviation – it’s before all a first in the history of energy. I’m sure that within 10 years we’ll see electric airplanes transporting 50 passengers on short to medium haul flights. But it’s not enough. The same clean technologies used on Solar Impulse could be implemented on the ground in our daily life to divide by two the CO2 emissions in a profitable way. Solar Impulse is only the beginning, now take it further!’

Initiator, chairman and pilot of Solar Impulse

In 2004, he began bringing together the partners who provided funds and technology for this adventure and partnered with André Borschberg. An entrepreneur and skilled aviator, Borschberg took on the technical challenge of developing the solar plane and making it fly.

More than taking turns at the controls of Si2 in the air, the first ever round-the-world solar flight is also a tandem achievement on the ground: while Piccard developed the project outreach to promote clean technologies, Borschberg pulled together the team that designed and constructed Si2 and organised the flight missions.

Promoting clean tech

Looking forward, Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg will continue to promote the use of modern clean technologies as a way to improve the quality of life on Earth.

Firstly, through the already announced creation of the International Committee for Clean Technologies. The committee will build on the #futureisclean initiative and regroup the main global actors in the field of clean technologies to bring independent and credible guidance on energy policy to governments and corporations alike.

Secondly, by carrying on the work initiated by the engineering team on unmanned and high endurance electric aircrafts, which could fly in high altitude for months, offering services that could provide exponential added value and complement the work being done by satellites today in a flexible and sustainable way.

‘Solar Impulse is of course very well positioned to contribute to the next generations of manned or unmanned electric aircrafts. By capitalising on the engineering skills and expertise gained over the past decade, we will continue to work to encourage concrete innovations and disruptive solutions.’

CEO, co-founder and pilot of Solar Impulse

Take it further!

As stated in Bertrand Piccard’s manifesto for clean technologies written in 2004, Solar Impulse’s ambition is ‘for the worlds of exploration and innovation to make a contribution to the cause of renewable energies; to demonstrate the importance of clean technologies for sustainable development; and to place dreams and emotions back at the heart of scientific adventure.’

Upon the final landing of the revolutionary aeroplane, designed and built by a team of engineers pulled together and led by André Borschberg following more than 10 years of calculations, simulations and testing, members of the Solar Impulse team could be seen carrying banners that read: ‘40,000km WITHOUT FUEL – A first for energy – TAKE IT FURTHER!’

‘We have flown 40,000 kilometers (around the world) without fuel, but there is still a lot to be done to encourage a worldwide implementation of clean technologies and to motivate everyone to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels in their daily lives, hence the creation of the International Committee for Clean Technologies.’

Initiator, chairman and pilot of Solar Impulse

There is still much to be done to make the world we live in more energy efficient, but through innovation and pioneering spirit, the first ever round-the-world solar flight is credible proof that change is possible and that there is reason to hope for a more sustainable world.

Click here to find out more about what’s next for Solar Impulse.

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