Bertrand Piccard

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Bertrand Piccard
Portrait of Bertrand Piccard
Piccard in 2015
Born (1958-03-01) 1 March 1958 (age 66)
Lausanne, Vaud, Switzerland
Alma materUniversity of Lausanne
Occupation(s)Psychiatrist and aviator
OrganizationSolar Impulse
Known forBallooning, solar flight
RelativesAuguste Piccard (grandfather)

Bertrand Piccard FRSGS (born 1 March 1958) is a Swiss explorer, psychiatrist and environmentalist.[1] Along with Brian Jones, he was the first to complete a non-stop balloon flight around the globe, in a balloon named Breitling Orbiter 3. He was the initiator, chairman, and pilot, with André Borschberg, of Solar Impulse, the first successful round-the-world solar-powered flight. In 2012 Piccard was awarded a Champions of the Earth award by the UN Environment Programme.[2] He is the founder and chairman of the Solar Impulse Foundation.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Piccard was born in Lausanne, Switzerland. His grandfather Auguste Piccard was a balloonist and undersea explorer, and his father Jacques Piccard was an undersea explorer.

As a child, Piccard was taken to the launch of several space flights from Cape Canaveral. Initially afraid of heights, at age 16 he took up hang gliding.[4] He developed early interests in flight and human behaviour in extreme situations. He received a degree from the University of Lausanne in psychiatry.


Piccard has since become a lecturer and supervisor at the Swiss Medical Society for Hypnosis (SMSH).[5]

Piccard obtained licences to fly balloons, airplanes, gliders, and motorized gliders. In Europe, he was one of the pioneers of hang gliding and microlight flying during the 1970s. He became the European hang-glider aerobatics champion in 1985.[5]

Bertrand Piccard during 1982.

Breitling Orbiter[edit]

On 1 March 1999, Piccard and Brian Jones took off in the balloon Breitling Orbiter 3, a bright red, carbon-composite, egg-shaped craft measuring sixteen feet long and seven feet in diameter, from Château d'Oex in Switzerland on the first successful non-stop balloon circumnavigation of the globe—- the first in-atmospheric circumnavigation not requiring any fuel for forward motion.[6] Piccard and Jones, in cooperation with a team of meteorologists on the ground, maneuvered into a series of jet streams that carried them 25,361 miles to land in Egypt after a 45,755 km (28,431 mi) flight lasting 19 days, 21 hours, and 47 minutes.[6] In recognition of this accomplishment, Piccard received awards including the Harmon Trophy, the FAI Gold Air Medal and the Charles Green Salver.[citation needed]

Solar Impulse[edit]

During November 2003, Piccard announced a project, in cooperation with the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), for a solar-powered, long-range aircraft named Solar Impulse. Piccard began construction in 2007, and conducted brief test flights in 2009 with André Borschberg. By 2006, he had assembled a multi-disciplinary team of fifty specialists from six countries, assisted by approximately one hundred outside advisers.[7]

The project was financed by a number of private companies and individuals in Europe. The first company to fund the project officially was Semper, after Eric Freymond was convinced of its future success by Piccard.[8] Owing to international funding for the project, the Solar Impulse is a European craft, not a Swiss one, despite scientific and medical assistance from the EPFL and Hirslanden Clinique Cecil.

In 2010, Solar Impulse 1 (Si1) made its first nighttime flight. In 2011, it landed at Bourget Field in Paris. In 2012, it made its first intercontinental flight from Switzerland to Morocco in two legs. The first leg in the one-seater aircraft was piloted by Borschberg from Payerne, Switzerland to Madrid, Spain, and the second leg by Piccard from Madrid to Rabat, Morocco.[9] in 2013, he and Borschberg traversed the United States from Mountain View, California to JFK Airport in New York City. There were several stops along the way, including Washington, D.C.

In 2015, Solar Impulse set out to accomplish the first round-the-world solar flight in history.[10] The voyage consisted of multiple flights starting on 9 March and was scheduled to conclude about five months later. In order to switch pilots, stopovers were scheduled at locations in India, Myanmar, China, The United States, and southern Europe or northern Africa. Piccard piloted the ninth segment of the round-the-world trip and landed the Solar Impulse 2 (Si2) in Moffett Field in California on 24 April 2016 after three days of flying from Kalaeloa Airport, Hawaii.

André Borschberg and Piccard completed their circumnavigation of the globe with the solar-powered aircraft Solar Impulse on 26 July 2016.[11] On the same day, they announced the creation of the World Alliance for Clean Technologies.[11]

For his role in delivering and piloting Solar Impulse, Bertrand was awarded the Mungo Park Medal by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society in 2018. This was awarded jointly with André Borschberg.[12]

The UN and the World Alliance[edit]

Piccard was named a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Environment Programme in December 2015, partway through his solar flight around the world.[13] Four months after the completion of the flight, during the 2016 United Nations Climate Change Conference, Piccard and the Solar Impulse Foundation launched the UNEP-endorsed non-profit World Alliance for Clean Technologies.[14]

In January 2018 Piccard told the Economic Times that in his travels he had collected more than 500 ideas to protect the environment that were also profitable from a total of five continents.[15]

In May 2018, Piccard and his Foundation announced the Efficient Solutions Label, a designation given to qualifying solutions after a four-week evaluation headed by World Alliance experts.[16] In 2021 Piccard told Forbes that the foundation had identified and certified 1000 solutions, profit-making for both companies and consumers.[17]

Hydrogen Car Record[edit]

In 2019, Piccard set a record for the most miles driven by a hydrogen car without refueling, driving a Hyundai NEXO hydrogen-powered SUV for a total trip of 778 kilometers (483.4 miles) in Europe, with the goal to promote hydrogen technology.[18]

Solar Impulse Foundation[edit]

Following his round-the-world solar flight with Solar Impulse, Piccard launched the Solar Impulse Foundation. Its goal is to select innovative solutions to the environmental crisis and promote them to decision-makers in order to accelerate the transition to a sustainable economy. To select these clean solutions, the Solar Impulse Foundation created the Solar Impulse Efficient Solution Label in May 2018.[19][20]

This certification is attributed following a strict assessment process made by a pool of independent experts, and it recognizes both the economic profitability and environmental impact of products, processes and services. The Label is awarded to solutions which contribute to the achievement of one of the five Sustainable Development Goals related to water, energy, consumption and production, industry, cities and communities.[21] In April 2021, Piccard and the Solar Impulse Foundation achieved its goal of selecting the first 1000 solutions.[22]

Other activities[edit]


Piccard's family tree includes four generations of explorers. His grandfather, Auguste Piccard, was the first to fly to the stratosphere, in 1931.[1] His father, Jacques Piccard, was first to descend to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, in 1960.[24] His great uncle Jean Félix Piccard and aunt Jeannette Piccard were also balloonists, and their son Donald Piccard first to fly across the English Channel in a balloon.[1] The family's attitude, Piccard once explained, is that being told that something is impossible is "exactly why we try to do it."[25]

Personal life[edit]

Piccard is married with three children.[26]

Awards and honours[edit]


  • Changer d'Altitude (Éditions Stock, Paris) 2014 ISBN 978-2-234-07725-6
  • The Greatest Adventure (Headline, London) 1999 ISBN 0-7472-7128-3 or Around the world in 20 Days (same content published by Wiley, New York) 1999 ISBN 0-471-37820-8pictured
  • Quand le vent souffle dans le sens de ton chemin (out of print) 1993 ISBN 2883930104
  • Une trace dans le ciel (Robert Laffont, Paris) 1999 ISBN 2-8289-0881-X
  • André Borschberg; Bertrand Piccard (2017). Objectif Soleil (in French). Stock. ISBN 978-2-234-08083-6.
  • Francis Pollet; Bertrand Piccard (2020). Le futur de l'avion : Les prochains défis de l'industrie aéronautique (in French). FYP Éditions. ISBN 978-2-36405-203-1.

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Page, Tom (2 October 2020). "Bertrand Piccard: The explorer who wants to clean up the skies, and the rest of the planet". CNN. Archived from the original on 2 October 2020. Retrieved 27 February 2021.
  2. ^ Environment, U. N. (22 August 2019). "Dr. Bertrand Piccard". Champions of the Earth. Retrieved 27 February 2021.
  3. ^ Impulse, Solar. "Solar Impulse Foundation: 1000 profitable solutions for the environment". Retrieved 12 May 2021.
  4. ^ Taub, Ben (10 October 2022). "Betrand Piccard's Laps Around the World". New Yorker. 98 (32): 42–53.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Bertrand Piccard Biography" (PDF). Solar Impulse. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 January 2013.
  6. ^ a b Linda Shiner (17 September 2009). "First Around the World". Air&Space Magazine.
  7. ^ "Major Steps". Solar Impulse. 31 December 2011. Archived from the original on 15 September 2012.
  8. ^ "Semper Gestion, First partner of Solar Impulse project". Nerditorial. 2 September 2013. Archived from the original on 4 November 2013. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
  9. ^ "Solar Plane Completes First Intercontinental Flight". National Geographic. June 2012. Archived from the original on 22 October 2021.
  10. ^ First Round-The-World Solar Flight ( Archived 20 January 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ a b (in French) Olivier Dessibourg, "Vers un comité mondial pour les énergies « vertes »", Le temps, Wednesday 27 July 2016, page 13. Box part of the large article of Fabien Goubet entitled "Un tour du monde, zéro carburant : Solar Impulse réécrit l'histoire de l'aviation", Le temps, Wednesday 27 July 2016, pages 12-13
  12. ^ a b "Acting on Impulse". The Royal Scottish Geographical Society. 8 May 2018. Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  13. ^ "Bertrand Piccard Named UN Environment Programme Goodwill Ambassador". Look to the Stars. 14 December 2015. Retrieved 18 July 2021.
  14. ^ "Bertrand Piccard's new global challenge: 1000 solutions for a cleaner planet". UN News. 27 September 2018. Retrieved 18 July 2021.
  15. ^ Basu, Ipsita. "Bertrand Piccard collects over 500 eco-friendly ideas to protect the environment". The Economic Times. Retrieved 23 July 2021.
  16. ^ Impulse, Solar. "The Solar Impulse Efficient Solution Label to protect the environment". Retrieved 23 July 2021.
  17. ^ Persio, Sofia Lotto. "Profitable And Sustainable Businesses Exist: Explorer Bertrand Piccard Proves It With 1,000 Examples". Forbes. Retrieved 23 July 2021.
  18. ^ "Bertrand Piccard breaks world distance record in Hyundai NEXO". Fuel Cells Bulletin. 2019 (12): 2. 1 December 2019. doi:10.1016/S1464-2859(19)30497-3. ISSN 1464-2859. S2CID 242792492.
  19. ^ "Solar plane pioneer embarks on journey to help low-carbon innovations take flight | Greenbiz". Retrieved 12 May 2021.
  20. ^ "Bertrand Piccard, en quête de 1.000 solutions pour changer le monde". La Tribune (in French). June 2018. Retrieved 12 May 2021.
  21. ^ "Seeking take-off with 1,000 clean tech solutions to fuel the globe | Reuters Events | Sustainable Business". Retrieved 12 May 2021.
  22. ^ Keystone-SDA/ts (13 April 2021). "Team behind solar plane identifies 1,000 eco-solutions". SWI Retrieved 2 June 2021.
  23. ^ EIB Group creates Climate and Environment Advisory Council European Investment Bank (EIB), press release of 1 September 2021.
  24. ^ Pauchard, Olicier (23 January 2020). "Sixty years on, Jacques Piccard remains the 'deepest man in the world'". SWI Archived from the original on 23 January 2020. Retrieved 27 February 2021.
  25. ^ Piccard, Bertrand (January 2010). "My Solar-Powered Adventure". TED. Retrieved 7 August 2016.
  26. ^ "Michèle Piccard, la pilote du pilote | Paris Match Suisse" (in French). 20 March 2019. Retrieved 12 May 2021.
  27. ^ "James Cameron, National Geographic, De Borchgrave: D.C." 16 June 2012. Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  28. ^ "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". American Academy of Achievement.

External links[edit]