Meet Solar Impulse 2, the solar-powered plane that never has to land


German test pilot Markus Scherdel steers the solar-powered Solar Impulse 2 aircraft for its maiden flight at its base in Payerne, Switzerland, on June 2, 2014. (Denis Balibouse/Reuters)

The Solar Impulse 2, a solar-powered plane designed to fly around the world next year, took its maiden flight Monday, taking off from Payerne Airfield in Switzerland and landing two hours later. Its predecessor, Solar Impulse, made it across the United States last year.

The new plane was unveiled in April. The Associated Press reported the plane has larger wings — about the size of a larger passenger plane — and uses roughly 17,200 solar cells and improved batteries. The plane also has amenities such as autopilot, a toilet, and a large enough cockpit for the pilot to lie down. Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, the project’s founders, told the AP that the plane can theoretically stay airborne indefinitely.

“I mean, the airplane can fly a month. The question is, ‘What can the pilot do?’” Borschberg told the AP. “So we have a sustainable airplane in terms of energy; we need to develop a sustainable pilot now.”

The around-the-world-journey will be split into several stages and take about 20 flying days in three months.

Watch the plane’s maiden flight below or check out its Web site, which offers its current location, space, altitude and other fun tidbits.



(Laurent Gillieron/Pool photo via European Pressphoto Agency)

(Denis Balibouse/Reuters)

Solar Impulse 2 is flown by German test pilot Markus Scherdel. (Denis Balibouse/Pool photo via European Pressphoto Agency)

(Denis Balibouse/Reuters)

(Denis Balibouse/Pool photo via European Pressphoto Agency)

The plane’s flight path.  

Nick Kirkpatrick is a digital photo editor at The Washington Post. Follow him on Instagram or on Twitter.
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