Not a drop of fuel

Solar-powered plane takes off for round-the-world flight

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

Two pilots aboard a solar-powered aircraft took off at 7:12 a.m. local time from Abu Dhabi for the first leg of what they hope will be the first complete solar-powered circumnavigation flight.

If all goes well, Solar Impulse-2 should take about 12 hours to reach Oman (a flight that would take about an hour on a commercial airliner) where it will land before continuing on to India, Myanmar, China and the U.S. The total 22,000-mile trip is expected to take five months. You can follow the flight’s progress at

The aircraft has a 236-foot wingspan but weighs just 5,070 pounds, according to Gizmag, and is powered by more than 17,000 solar panels. One of the main materials used to build the plane was lightweight carbon fiber composites. One problem was fashioning long wings that were both extremely lightweight and strong enough to withstand multi-day flights without failing.

This plane’s predecessor, piloted by the same team of André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard, flew from California to New York in 2013. That trip took three months.

7 Responses to “Solar-powered plane takes off for round-the-world flight”

    • Fennec

      And if they’re doing it for their enjoyment, as well as for technological purposes?

      One might say your relaxing on a beach on a weekend seems like a waste of a weekend (Elon Musk certainly would).

    • exhibit44

      It’s supported by a number of Swiss companies across the economy, with help from Google. Richard Branson was also attached to the first one. There is a nice docu about the first one easily findable on youtube.

      I don’t see a huge amount of secret use for this stuff, but who knows. As far as I’m concerned, there are more potentially shady tech things way out there in the open. Think of it this way – it is a visible and public advocacy of workable, high-tech solar. That means possibly fewer wars over oil. Also a lot of advocacy around solutions to energy problems through hi-tech thinking. Good enough for me.