Bertrand Piccard circumnavigated the Earth in a hot-air balloon. Now he wants to circle it in an airplane powered only by solar energy.

Why you should listen

Bertrand Piccard was born in a family of firsts. His father, Jacques, together with Dan Walsh of the US, was the first man to reach the deepest point of the world's oceans, the Mariana Trench, in 1960. Almost 30 years earlier, his grandfather, Auguste, first ballooned into the stratosphere. While they went up and down, Bertrand went horizontal and in 1999, together with Brian Jones of Britain, completed the first-ever nonstop balloon circumnavigation of the globe, flying more than 45,000 km in 20 days.

Now, in a hangar near Zurich, a team of scientists and engineers around Piccard and co-pilot André Borschberg is building Solar Impulse, an unconventional aircraft designed to circumnavigate the Earth powered by solar energy, flying day and night (yes, when the Sun is "off"). The prototype has the weight of a car but the wingspan of an Airbus. Solar Impulse has successfully flown from Spain to Morocco and across the United States. The next trip: circumnavigation.

Piccard is also the founder of Winds of Hope, an organization to combat neglected diseases in children, and a Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations Population Fund.

What others say

“How far can you go with no fuel? If aeronautical adventurer Bertrand Piccard has any influence, the answer will be: all the way around the world.” — Jeff Wise, Popular Mechanics

Bertrand Piccard’s TED talk

Bertrand Piccard on the TED Blog
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Maiden flight for Bertrand Piccard's Solar Impulse aircraft

April 7, 2010

Solar Impulse, the solar airplane that Swiss adventurer Bertrand Piccard described in his captivating talk at TEDGlobal 2009, took off successfully this morning from Payerne airfield, in Western Switzerland, on its maiden flight. The aircraft (which has a wingspan of 63.40 meters but a weight of only 1600 kg and a speed at takeoff of […]

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A solar-powered adventure: Bertrand Piccard on

January 1, 2010

For the dawn of a new decade, adventurer Bertrand Piccard offers us a challenge: Find motivation in what seems impossible. He shares his own plans to do what many say can’t be done — to fly around the world, day and night, in a solar-powered aircraft. (Recorded at TEDGlobal 2009, July 2009, Oxford, UK. Duration: […]

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