The French town of Les Sables d’Olonne is no stranger to ambitious missions to harness the forces of nature.
It’s best known as the departure and arrival point of the Vendee Globe, the notoriously tough round-the-world nonstop solo sailing race.
Maybe that explains why it’s here, far from the world’s major centers of aircraft manufacturing, that a team of visionaries is readying a ground-breaking new aircraft concept.
And why they’re being led by scientist and former yachtsman Raphael Dinelli, a four-time veteran of the Vendee Globe.
The team’s plan is to make the first carbon-free transatlantic flight a reality by June 2016.
The quest for the electric plane
While the car industry is already transitioning away from fossil fuels, commercial aviation is lagging behind.
Not for want of attempts.
The first tangible steps towards carbon-free flight echo the efforts of the first aviation pioneers a century earlier.
In July 2015 two competing electric aircraft flown by Frenchmen Didier Esteyne and Hugues Duval crossed the English Channel within hours of each other, a technological feat not unlike their countryman Louis Bleriot’s celebrated 1909 cross-Channel flight.
Dinelli and his team at eco-science research body Fondation Ocean Vital have set their sights on a more ambitious milestone — the non-stop transatlantic flight in a completely carbon-free aircraft.