Swiss pilots aim to circle world in a solar-powered plane

A A A

Bertrand Piccard is no conventional environmental activist -- he hopes to raise awareness about the potential of renewable energy by flying a solar-powered aircraft around the world.

(AFP) -

Bertrand Piccard is no conventional environmental activist - he hopes to raise awareness about the potential of renewable energy by flying a solar-powered aircraft around the world.

"What we want to do is to fly day and night to show that, with renewable energies, you can have unlimited duration of flight, no restriction," Piccard told AFP at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, where he had a booth to promote his venture.

The 51-year-old Swiss psychiatrist plans to fly his one-of-kind "Solar Impulse" around the world over 20 to 25 days, traveling at an average of 70 kilometres (43 miles) an hour.

He will split the flying time with Andre Borschberg, a former Swiss fighter pilot.

"We believe that if an airplane can fly around the world with no fuel, nobody can say after that it's impossible to do it for cars, for heating systems, for air-conditioning, for computers and so on," he said.

The prototype of Solar Impulse made its first test flight near Zurich in December. The plane is made of carbon fibre, with solar panels along the top of its roughly 64-metre (209-foot) wingspan.

The aim is for the solar panels to absorb energy to power the aircraft during the day, and at the same time store energy in lithium polymer batteries to run the engines at night.

After aircraft manufacturers said Piccard's specifications would be impossible to meet, he turned to a racing yacht manufacturer to build the airframe.

"They did not know it's impossible, so they did it," he said.

The plane is powered by four electric engines, each making a maximum of 10 horsepower. Piccard said that, despite having a wingspan close to that of an Airbus A340, Solar Impulse weighs only 1,600 kilogrammes (3,500 pounds).

Asked what led him to try this unorthodox method of promoting renewable energy, Piccard pointed to his family history.

"I come from a family of explorers, who always had a lot of concern for the environment and for natural resources," he said.

"My grandfather was the first man to explore the stratosphere, to climb above the atmosphere (in a balloon) ... and my father made in 1960 the deepest dive ever in a submarine," he said.

- Lindbergh's flight with no fuel -

-------------------

Piccard has already demonstrated a penchant for adventure. In 1999, he and Briton Brian Jones became the first men to complete a non-stop flight around the globe in a hot-air balloon.

That flight "gave me the fame to ... do useful things," Piccard said, including finding sponsors, money and support for his current project.

The project, which will cost a total of 70 million euros (100 million dollars), has been underway for around seven years and still has a way to go. The attempted flight around the world won't take place until 2012 or 2013.

This year, the aircraft will undergo high-altitude testing, and will also be tested in daytime and nighttime flight. If that goes well, the prototype will either be modified or a new one built for a trans-Atlantic flight.

"We have to reproduce Lindbergh's flight with no fuel," Piccard said, referring to Charles Lindbergh, the first man to fly solo non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean.

The one-man aircraft will land at different points during the flight around the world so the pilots can switch off, Piccard said.

In addition to the switch, the landings will be an opportunity "to present the technology of this airplane, to encourage people to use (the technology) also, for their daily life," he said.

For Piccard, the Solar Impulse project is a new, positive tack in promoting renewable energy and conservation.

"I was in Copenhagen (for the recent climate change conference), and I see people are fed up with the alarmists, the catastrophists," he said.

"People need solutions, not problems. So we have to demonstrate the solutions. We have to show that it's possible to do great things."

And aviation, Piccard said, is "a good vector to push messages."

News
Mickey Rourke celebrates his victory against opponent Elliot Seymour
people
News
Gordon and Tana Ramsay arrive at the High Court, London
newsTV chef gives evidence against his father-in-law in court case
News
Actor Burt Reynolds last year
people
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books
News
i100 Charity collates series of videos that show acts of kindness to animals
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Opilio Recruitment: QA Automation Engineer

£30k - 38k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: An award-winning consume...

Opilio Recruitment: UX & Design Specialist

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Digital Marketing Manager

£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game