Innovation and Perseverance Were Key To The First Trans-Atlantic Solar Flight

Solar Impulse 2 succeeded in flying around the globe, but it wasn't easy.

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Jul 5 2016, 9:26pm

Bertrand Piccard is a dreamer.

The Swiss psychiatrist, inspired by a family lineage of explorers and innovators, holds the record for the first non-stop balloon flight across the globe. Now, along with his partner André Borschberg, he also holds the distinction of completing the first ever Trans-Atlantic solar powered flight.

Piccard's achievement is notable not only because of the grandeur of the feat, but also because of the message that the feat conveys. The flight demonstrates alternative energy as a viable means to a brighter future–spreading the word about energy-saving technologies.

Known as Solar Impulse 2, Piccard's aircraft is a technological marvel. Over 80 engineers and technicians sought every possible optimization to design an aircraft that is both incredibly light, and incredibly efficient, often employing completely novel technologies to achieve what many experts considered implausible, if not completely impossible. The result is a plane that is roughly the same weight as a car, with a wingspan exceeding that of a Boeing 747. In theory, the plane could fly perpetually, using its 17,000 photovoltaic cells to charge its batteries in the sunlight during the day, continuing to power it at night.

Solar Impulse 2 serves as a fascinating case study for what can be achieved with a vision, focus, determination, and a whole lot of technological innovation.