Video: solar plane makes successful maiden flight
Solar Impulse II takes a step towards becoming the first solar plane to circumnavigate the globe
The solar-powered plane due to embark on a round-the-world journey next year has successfully completed its first test flight.
The Solar Impulse II took off from Payerne airfield in Switzerland at just after 4.35am BST and touched down two hours later.
The plane completed a sequence of manoeuvres during its maiden flight, before returning to make a soft landing.
"It's a great day for all the team of Solar Impulse," Bertrand Piccard, one of the two pilots behind the project told the BBC. "For the first time in history, we have an aeroplane that is flying with no fuel day and night, showing the incredible potential of the clean technologies – all these technologies that the world can also use in order to reduce the dependency to fossil fuel and to be cleaner and solve a lot of problems of pollution."
The Solar Impulse team plans a full programme of tests flights over Switzerland this summer.
The plane weighs just 2,300 kilograms, about the same as a family car, but its 72–metre wingspan is broader than that of a Boeing 747. The Solar Impulse 2's predecessor flew across America last year, but no one has yet successfully circumnavigated the globe in a solar–powered aircraft.