NEW FORMS OF INTELLIGENCE
FRIBOURG FREIBURG CHALLENGE
Smiling (and shivering) as their balloon rose above 5,000 meters and the temperature dropped to a bone-chilling -15 °C, Laurent Sciboz and Nicolas Tièche hit the headlines thanks to their performance at the 2015 and 2016 editions of the Gordon Bennett Cup (see photograph). However, there was less media coverage for the 20-strong support team back on terra firma, who oversaw the smooth running of the Fribourg Freiburg Challenge project. This group of meteorologists, route planners, air traffic controllers and IT experts collected an enormous amount of data which they crunched and contextualized to ensure that the two balloonists had the best flight strategies possible. As Laurent Sciboz explains: “The team took advantage of several recent technological advances.” These included numerical weather prediction and trajectory forecast modelling. For the 2017 race, which will begin in Fribourg in September, the two pilots also plan to use a predictive offload model developed in partnership with the Fribourg School of Engineering and Architecture.
Huge following on social media
During the 2016 edition of the prestigious gas balloon race, the Gordon Bennet Cup, no less than three people were assigned to handle the social media accounts of the Fribourg Freiburg Challenge team. “When we were putting the Fribourg Freiburg Challenge project together with our sponsors, the idea of leveraging our visibility to launch a kind of social network laboratory emerged very quickly”, recalls balloonist Laurent Sciboz. The team currently has tens of thousands of followers across its various social media channels. To strengthen their relationship with their online fan base, Laurent Sciboz and co-pilot Nicolas Tièche use satellite technology “or even WhatsApp, which we are able to connect to when flying over larger towns and cities, to post hundreds of images directly from the balloon”.