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Photo via Solar Impulse
Photo via Solar Impulse

Today, the team who is determined to make the first solar-powered flight around the world took off.

We wrote about their epic quest in December: “The duo, pilot Bertrand Piccard (no relation to Capt. Jean-Luc Picard of Star Trek fame, as far as we can tell) and co-pilot/lead engineer André Borschberg, have built the Solar Impulse 2, a solar-powered plane that requires no fuel. They’ve already taken it for a successful spin: a solo-piloted, 24-hour excursion over Europe, Africa and the United States. And now they want to conquer the world.”

The flight was planned to take off in March, so they appear to be right on schedule. According to Venture Beat, the plane departed Abu Dhabi a little after 7 a.m. local time, and its course will take it east through India, China, then the U.S. and Europe before landing back in the United Arab Emirates in August, pending some rest and repair time. During the five-month journey, they are also campaigning for cleaner technologies.

This plane is a larger version of the first Solar Impulse prototype, sporting a 72-meter (236 feet) wingspan that  house 17,000 solar cells to power the lithium-ion batteries for nighttime flying.

Here’s pilot Borschberg’s tweet announcing his journey:

All told, it will be exciting to watch their progress and, hopefully their findings will contribute to more solar-powered flights in the future.

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