Renewable Energy

Solar plane takes off on record-breaking tour

Touring Solar Impulse
Flying with no fuel
Hypnosis on the Solar Impulse
Piccard's vision for Solar Impulse

Solar-powered plane Solar Impulse 2 (Si2) took off from the UAE Monday, on the first leg its five-month record-breaking round-the-world flight.

The plane took off from Abu Dhabi's Al-Bateen airport at 07:12 GMT Monday, and was set to land in Muscat Oman at 15:00GMT. The flight's first leg was originally set for Saturday, but was delayed due to wind storms in Dubai.

Credit: Solar Impulse ©

"We are demonstrating that we can achieve impossible things with renewable energies and clean technologies," Solar Impulse Chairman Bertrand Piccard said.

The Si2 is powered by 17,247 solar cells stretched across the plane's wings which exceed the span of a Boeing 747. Lithium batteries will help store energy, allowing the aircraft to fly at night.

Si2's predecessor already set seven world records for solar flight including height gain, free distance and for completing a 26-hour day and night trip.

Read MoreSolar plane set for record-breaking world tour

Following an overnight pilot change in Oman, Si2 will continue on to India, China, Myanmar, Hawaii and the continental US. After crossing the Atlantic, Si2 will stop over in Southern Europe or North Africa before returning to the UAE.

The entire trip is expected to last about five months, ending in July or August. Piccard will take turns manning the single-seater plane with fighter pilot and MIT graduate Anderw Borschberg.

Credit: Solar Impulse ©

Piccard is no stranger when it comes to pushing the boundaries of aviation. He currently holds the record for the first round-the-world balloon flight – a feat he completed in 1999. It was this trip which spurred his idea for Si2.

"For the 20 days of the flight I had butterflies in my stomach, being afraid of being short of fuel, short of propane gas before the success, every day of the flight" Piccard told CNBC.

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"At this moment I really understood what it means to be dependent on fossil energy, and I made the promise that the next time I would fly around the world it would be with no fuel at all, to be able to be free to fly forever…This is how Solar Impulse was born. The idea really is to fly day and night with no fuel with an unlimited perpetual endurance," he said.

As for those who doubt the viability of solar flight, Piccard says sceptics are behind the curve.

"A lot of critics are 100 years too late, they should have gone to the Wright Brother and tell them your airplane is made out of wood and cloth it has no future, it will never transport passengers on oceans, they will never fly high with passengers. Well, we see what happened."