Arc Ascending

Our high-altitude blogazine

Flying Solar

A duck flying over water

Our world is facing some big challenges. And tackling them will require big changes in our everyday lives – in the ways we eat or dress, travel, work and relax and also in the types of recreation we choose.

Perhaps that’s why ‘enjoy’ isn’t a word you hear so much when climate change comes into the conversation.

It’s true that achieving a sustainable and enjoyable future will be hard. But it is possible.

An attraction idea as big as Arc inevitably means some impact. But to fulfil our responsibility in creating that future, we’re making Arc an incredibly low-impact invention, and ensured that people’s enjoyment of it will be powered by the Sun and its own clean energy.

Taking the balanced approach…

How do we do this? At it’s simplest, Arc is a brilliant balancing act. At one end you have an enormous 110-tonne triangular counterweight, at the other a glass capsule (which weighs a paltry ten tonnes). The fulcrum point is positioned so Arc sits in perfect equilibrium and does not move unless it is powered.

But it only needs enough power to gently move the counterweight down – gravity does the rest. And that power comes from solar energy.

An array of photovoltaic panels on a rooftop area the size of Arc’s flight lounge can easily capture enough energy to supply Arc throughout the year. What’s more, most of the energy which is used to make Arc tilt and turn can also be recovered and used again!

This is done by using a process to slow Arc down called 'regenerative braking'. Regenerative braking is fundamental to efficient electric car design, and is found in models like the Toyota Prius or the Tesla Roadster. So you could say that Arc makes its own power, too.

The next question is: where do you actually store all that power?

yacht batteryA solid solution

Arc’s designers looked at a variety of options, including converting dedicated areas of an adjacent building to house batteries, or concealing those batteries in perimeter barriers which could also be used as security measures against vehicle attacks. But our eventual solution proved to be much more integral – making them a part of Arc itself.

Unlike the masts and cabin, which must be light, elegant and slender, the counterweight must be heavy, dense and compact. What better material to use for weight than lead? Oh, wait – isn't lead also used in batteries? And don't batteries store electrical energy? But since we need so many batteries for the counterweight can we actually make do with second-hand ones, which still have plenty of life left in them, and easily enough storage capacity for our purposes? The answers to this chain of thinking were all ‘yes!’ – and so the idea of using second-hand yacht batteries as both the counterweight and electricity storage was born.

Using something again is the near the top of the waste hierarchy (Prevent, Reuse, Recycle, Recover, Dispose). Reclaiming thousands of battery units is just one of the many small ways Arc can fulfil a duty to our planet – and helping ensure its enjoyable, sustainable, future.


Nick Stubbs is the inventor of Arc. An architect and chartered environmentalist he is passionate about sustainability and projects that offer practical real-world solutions to global challenges.