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

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May 21, 2014

Bertrand Piccard plans to fly around the world in a plane that doesn't use any fuel. Huh? Yep. This machine is equipped with 17,000 solar panels. He explains the logistics and mechanics -- and shares some hopes and fears for the upcoming voyage.

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