It was a contrast between two worlds – the old and the new one

Bertrand Piccard - I Was Flying With A Solar Airplane Over A Tanker Leaving a Long Trace Of OilImage source: Bertrand Piccard/Facebook
news Saturday, January 23, 2016 - 12:51

Update: Swiss pioneers Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg are ready to resume their attempt to achieve the first ever Round-The-World Solar Flight with Solar Impulse 2 (Si2) – the first solar airplane capable of flying day and night without using a drop of fuel. After replacing overheated batteries and running maintenance flights, the team is now re-entering “mission mode”, and as of April 15, will identify the first favorable window for Bertrand Piccard to fly toward North America, despite the current difficult weather conditions. The goal of this entire endeavor is to demonstrate how modern clean technologies can achieve the impossible. 

Here’s a TNM interview with Bertrand Piccard from earlier this year.   

The name Piccard could well become a synonym for exploration – of pushing the frontiers of science and innovation, imagination and risk. Grandfather Auguste Piccard physicist, aeronaut, balloonist and hydronaut was the first to reach the lowest point of the seabed or go up into the stratosphere with a balloon to observe cosmic rays. He was immortalised by Hergé as professor Tournesol in TinTin.  His grandson Bertrand Piccard first circumnavigated the globe in a balloon in 1999. That was a trial run. In 2015, he went around the world in a majestic Solar Impulse fired by the sun and a million dreams of helping the world explore clean energy options. Clean energy is a reality and it is one the world must seize with both hands, Bertrand Piccard tells The News Minute’s Chitra Subramaniam on the sidelines of Davos 2016. Excerpts.

1. At a time when we have forgotten to dream and push the frontiers of what is possible, comes Solar Impulse.  Can this be seen as an invitation to dare to dream?

Yes of course. When I was a child I was inspired by the pioneer of aviation and exploration whom I met when I was living in the US. They showed me how it’s important to explore the unknown and how interesting life can be when we try to achieve things that have never been done before. With Solar Impulse André (Borschberg) and I would like to inspire many people as possible to push their personal boundaries but also to show to the society that we can have a better quality of life by using clean technologies.

Image source: Solar Impulse/Facebook

2. You come from a family of pioneers. Were you a precocious child?

Before 16 I wasn’t ready to take risks and was rather shy and precocious. But at the age of 16 I started to fly with hang gliders discovering how much more performant I could become by learning to manage risks, concentration and awareness in the present moment.

3. If a 10-year old asked you to imagine the world in ten years, what would you say?

They are 2 options for the future. If we continue to burn fossil energy and waste energy with old polluting technologies the world will become a bad place to live in: worth pollution and poverty. But we can also replace all the inefficient systems by modern clean technologies which will not only protect nature but also create jobs make profits and wealth to develop the economy and fight against poverty.

Image source: Solar Impulse/Facebook

4. Astronauts say countries look like tiny specs on a vast canvas. How did the world and its big and small issues look from Solar Impulse?

I can tell you that with Solar Impulse we can witness the existence of climate change especially when we are facing meteorological statistics which now become erratic and unreliable. But the most iconic souvenir is when I was flying with a solar airplane over a tanker which was leaving a long trace of oil behind it in the sea that was the contrast between two worlds: the old and the new one.

5. What is the one immediate technological gain from Solar Impulse that can be put for public use? (Here I am thinking of F1 cars and testing technology from ceramic brakes to industrial glue).

All the technologies developed by our partners can be used on the ground to make a cleaner world: electrical motors with 97% efficiency, LED lamps for public/private lightening system, extremely efficient insulation foam that can reduce energy consumption for houses, light materials and structure, high energy density batteries, ultra-thin solar cells.  

6. You presence at COP21 was highly viewed. Do you think politicians have risen to the challenge posed to them by the new generation?

What I noticed in Cop21 is the fact that the industry is now calling for a legal framework in the field of carbon pricing and ambitious energy policies in order to know in which direction to invest. In that sense industry seems ahead of political world and we now all have to push the government to move quickly in this direction.

Bertrand Piccard reaches Ahmedabad in Gujarat, India, on March 11, 2015; Image source: Bertrand Piccard/Facebook

7. Solar Impulse was stuck at Ahmedabad (India) due to bureaucracy. Your team took to the social media as the final recourse and their message was heard. How do you view the power of this medium that cuts across barriers - constructive disruption?

Social media become an extremely powerful tools but the world should really use them only for good causes and in a respectful way because can be very detrimental or even cruel.

Read about the Piccards here

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