Solar Impulse @ Paris Air Show

Posted by in Technology, Ventures

CRW_8105 - Version 2

I was lucky enough to get to meet (along with a few other bloggers) with the founders of the Solar Impulse project : Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg. This wasn’t the first time I met the “savanturier” Bertrand Piccard (firstly at a conference by the Swiss embassy in Paris, then at LeWeb’10) and I must say his background and lifestyle amaze me.
After achieving the first non-stop balloon flight around the globe, he came up in 2003 along with André Borschbeg with the Solar Impulse project as a way to promote the use of technologies and renewable energies to make the world a better place.

With Solar Impulse, Piccard and Borschberg build an incredible communication and marketing tool to convey their message. As he explained during the interview, they chose a “plane” (while they could have used a ship or a car or whichever transportation device) to make sure they reach every human being and deeply mark them with their being, leveraging on the human being’s oldest dream : flying.

Of course, this demonstration is not suppose to mean that commercial flights will be able to fly fuel-less any time soon. The design of Solar Impulse is very specific, re-engineered from the ground up to be as light as possible (1.6tons) and the size of the cabin is ridiculously small, which makes it a real physical achievement for André who had to fly in that tiny space for 26hrs without closing an eye (no autopilot!). A second version is under work with a larger cabin (and an autopilot + automatic autopilot controller) enabling longer flights in reasonable conditions.
Nevertheless the message is fairly clearly demonstrated : technologies enabled to reduce energy needs of the plane to a level where renewable energies – here the sun – could provide them.

Since the project launch in 2003, they raised money from partners and “fans”, and 75Mâ?¬, 80 engineers and technicians and 7 years later they were ready to do the first 26 hours non-stop flight of Solar Impulse – day AND night.
Funny enough Bertrand Piccard confessed he expected he’d have to make a full non-stop flight around the globe to raise some attention, but it seems he got every eye on him faster than he had anticipated.

Can’t wait to see more records broken by the Solar Impulse team and hopefully this initiative along with all that going on in the green space with companies such as Betterplace will help us lower our dependency on fossil energies and help us become more aware and regarding on how much we consume and how we could reduce our energy footprint.

I embedded below a video from LeWeb’10 featuring lots of images from the conception phase and building of the first prototype as well as the interview of Bertrand Piccard by @Loic.