31 Aug 2018

Drones Conference 2018: Andre Borschberg’s Keynote Address

Andre Borschberg gave the keynote address at the second FAI International Drones Conference and Expo in Switzerland, where he said that the world of drones would “open a new world” in aviation. 

The pilot, who with Bertrand Piccard famously circumnavigated the world in a solar-powered plane in 2015/16, was talking about the increasing role of drones in the world of aviation in front an audience of drone industry professionals at the EPFL in Lausanne. 

The current FAI world record holder spent five days and nights flying Solar Impulse 2 across the Pacific in 2015, and said flying an electric-powered aircraft was “an incredible feeling”. 

“You just hear the sound of the wind on the canopy. Almost nothing from the propeller.”

He said that the history of aviation was one of innovation followed by optimisation. The drone world was in a vibrant period of innovation, he said, with hundreds of companies and thousands of people working on the idea of making mass transport in the sky a reality. 

“We have a lot of new technologies,” he said, “and we believe it will change aviation.” However, he cautioned, “I think the human part is that part that will slow us down.”

It often took new people and new ways of thinking or looking at things to make true technological leaps, he said. 

“In 2003 when we started the Solar Impulse we did a feasibility study. We wanted to develop an aircraft that could fly day and night.

“We needed to get the energy on board during flight - that was solar power. It had to be light - the weight of a family car, but the size of a Boeing.

“The aviation industry told us it was impossible. But we said we would find a way.”

He added: “The Wright Brothers built planes out of wood and fabric - materials around for 5,000 years. But they knew that through failures they could learn.”

Technology will continue to develop, he said, “But it is mindset and people that make the real change.”

Photo: FAI / Marcus King