Solar Impulse 2 is back on the ground, having arrived at Muscat, Oman, on completion of the first leg of its 12-stop, round-the-world flight.

The single-seat aircraft, which is powered solely by solar energy, departed from Abu Dhabi at 07:12 local time and covered the 220nm (400km) in just about 13h with programme co-founder André Borschberg at the controls. Following an overnight check-over by ground crew, an early morning start to the second leg will see Bertrand Piccard take the stick for a 790nm stretch over an estimated 20h to Ahmedabad in India.

The single-seat aircraft has a wingspan of 72m (236ft) – a Boeing 747-8I comes in at 68.5m – but weighs just 2,300kg (5,070lb), about the mass of a car and including its 2,077kg load of lithium batteries. The materials and assembly techniques that make such a lightweight structure possible, combined with the solar power harvesting and electronics needed to keep the aircraft flying day and night, are the message behind this project.

During their five-month, 12-stage journey, Borschberg and Piccard will be meeting with governments, non-governmental organisations, universities and schools to drive the point that global energy challenges can be met with existing technology – as demonstrated by their aircraft.

From Ahmedabad, Solar Impulse 2 will carry on across India and China – then go transpacific via Hawaii, to New York and then across the Atlantic, ultimately returning to Abu Dhabi.

Solar Impulse 2 mosque 640

Over Abu Dhabi

Solar Impulse