First fully solar powered plane; to fly around the globe

The Solar Impulse pioneers have set out to do something that even today seems nearly impossible: the first round-the-world solar flight, powered only by the sun, with no fuel or polluting emissions.

Solar impulse is the name a Swiss experimental, fully functional, airplane constructed to run solely on solar energy.

With a wingspan of over 72 meters (around 236 feet), the Solar Impulse 2 is slightly longer than that of a Boeing 747. Its slim, carbon fiber body cast also makes for an easy lift off as it weighs a mere 2,300 kg (5,070 pounds) or the air equivalent of a car. The airplane itself also features over 17,000 solar panels which are located on top of its wings.

Solar Impulse started off in 2003 when Bertrand Piccard, a Swiss psychiatrist and coincidentally, the first man to complete a non-stop balloon flight around the world, undertook a partnership with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne. By 2009, they had a team of over 50 engineers and technical specialists along with many private investors funding the project. Also in 2009, the team tested their original prototype (the Solar Impulse 1) after a three year construction period.

According to the official Solar Impulse website, “In the footsteps of the great aeronautical firsts, Solar Impulse intends to achieve the First Round-The-World Solar Flight in 2015, after 12 years of research, tests and development. No fuel, but only solar energy and technologies of the future, to prove that pioneering spirit and innovation can really change the world.”