Abu Dhabi summit: Adventurer reveals plan to circle world on green hydrogen-powered aircraft in 9 days

Bertrand Piccard, along with another explorer, had undertaken a historic global trip on a solar-powered flight to land at Abu Dhabi’s Al Bateen Executive Airport in 2016


Ashwani Kumar

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Published: Thu 18 Apr 2024, 1:32 PM

Taking the call for climate action to new heights, global adventurer Dr Bertrand Piccard revealed plans to fly non-stop around the world in a green hydrogen-powered aircraft in an estimated nine days in 2028.

The Swiss explorer, along with Brian Jones, was the first to go around the world in a non-stop balloon flight in 1999. He, along with Andre Borschberg, completed a historic global trip on a solar-powered flight Solar Impulse 2 to land at Abu Dhabi’s Al Bateen Executive Airport on July 26, 2016. And now, he has demonstrated intent for yet another innovative air travel without a drop of fuel.

Addressing the Green Hydrogen Summit held as part of the World Future Energy Summit (WFES) in Abu Dhabi, Dr Piccard highlighted the importance of embracing disruptive innovation to achieve the impossible.

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“We are at the edge of an energy revolution. And like in every revolution, you have a lot of people who are afraid, a lot of people who say: ‘We cannot change anything, we keep the status quo, the rest is impossible’. Today it’s the same for renewable energy, for hydrogen, people are saying we will never be able to produce enough clean energy, there are not enough producers and clients, and it’s too expensive,” he said during the summit that has been held under the theme ‘Building the Hydrogen Economy: From Dialogue to Reality’.

Citing the Solar Impulse project, Dr Piccard recollected how leading experts discouraged him from undertaking the journey.

“When I initiated the Solar Impulse project to fly around the world on solar energy, starting and coming back to Abu Dhabi, thanks to the partnership of with Masdar, there were, big specialists who told me you can never use the power of the sun to fly day and night with an aeroplane.”

Solar Impulse 2, which began its epic journey from Abu Dhabi in March 2015, set about 19 world records, including the world’s longest solar-powered flight in terms of time (117 hours, 52 minutes) and distance (8,924 km). It completed more than 500 flight hours, cruising at altitudes of up to 9,000m at average speeds of between 45 km/h and 90 km/h.

“Solar Impulse was a symbol. It was not something that was meant to make a revolution in our transport. But when we came back to Abu Dhabi successfully, it was very clear that the symbol had been heard.”

Dr Piccard termed his new hydrogen-powered project named Climate Impulse as a technological feat and a new chapter of aviation for climate action.

“If we can fly around the world, nonstop, with a hydrogen aeroplane. I don’t think that we will need a lot more to convince people that we can achieve the impossible with hydrogen. Of course, the plane does not exist yet. That’s why I’m presenting a shadow. Later on, it will be the real plane,” Dr Piccard said while showing the porprototype on the big screen.

Dr Piccard noted that the construction of the hydrogen-powered aeroplane will be done by 2025, long haul tests by 2027, and then around-the-world travel by 2028. The two-engine Climate Impulse flight will have a wingspan of 34m, can cruise at an altitude of 3,000m, a total mass of 5.5 tonnes, feature two tanks of liquid hydrogen, and hit a speed of 180km/hr, and complete a nine-day world tour in 2028.

Dr Piccard underlined the demonstration at the summit was to show that the aviation sector can be operated on clean energy.

“Now, we have the possibilities.”

He highlighted the role of oil and gas companies in the development of hydrogen solutions.

“We need the skills, the experience, the technology, and the wealth of oil and gas companies, and give them the possibility for diversification. Hydrogen is one of these possibilities. Oil and gas companies know how to produce a gas and a liquid, transport it to distribute it, to sell it. So it's a perfect diversification for them.”


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