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

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 SolarImpulse.com.

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.

Coming to America: a Swiss solar powered plane

A Swiss project that is 10 years in the making aims to show that solar powered planes could one day shuttle people around the world. After carrying out demonstration flights in Europe and North Africa, Solar Impulse is coming to America this year.

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