Solar powered balloon joins hot air
On 6th August 2015 at the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, Europe’s biggest hot air balloon gathering saw the maiden flight of a solar powered balloon. We visited the following day and joined the huge crowd in applauding as it took flight again. It was very fitting that this happened in Bristol which is the European Green Capital of the Year.
The balloon which is black on one side to absorb the heat and silver on the other to reflect it, is controlled by turning it into and out of the sun.
The festival is an amazing event drawing thousands of visitors over it’s four days. The number flying has increased with this year seeing on average 100 at a time taking to the air. Lucky, the weather was kind for all seven flights. The design of the balloons has become more and more creative over the years. Unlike the solar powered balloon that is restricted in colour, that is not the case for the others that use the space well to advertise a multitude of products. Then of course there are the shapes!
Check out the penguin! There were a couple of those, as well as a Swatch watch, Stuart the Minion and the light bulb. If you look carefully at the horizon shot, you might be able to see the FA cup as well as the solar powered balloon that had caught the sunshine beautifully.
So, a great deal of hot air was expended over Bristol this past week-end. The statistics for the solar powered balloon are pretty impressive – five litres of fuel instead of the 60 litres that the same journey would have been used in a conventional basket-carrying balloon. The pilot admitted to holding the burner throughout the flight as it was habit and there were a couple of occasions when the burner had to be used when the balloon was shielded from the sun. Asked if he thought this was the way forward for hot air ballooning, he felt that it worked in principle.
I think, given the weather here in the UK, that comment shows the pilot as one of life’s optimists! I waved to the people in the baskets as they soared above me but you wouldn’t get me in one.