A solar-powered plane has taken to the skies in a test flight before it flies around the entire world next year.

The Solar Impulse 2 took off from Switzerland and landed two hours later, powered by the sun alone. A similar flight took place across America last year in the original Impulse, but this updated version of the plane is far bigger. The Impulse 2 has a wider wingspan than a 747 but weighs less than some cars.

The 72m metre wide, 2.3 tonne plane ascended to over 6,000 feet before carrying out a few manoeuvres and reaching speeds of 90mph. The Solar Impulse 2 should be capable of sustaining flight, day and night, thanks to the 17,000 solar cells and array of lithium ion batteries.

When the round-the-world record breaking attempt is made in 2015 there will only be room for one pilot. The seat reclines for exercising and sleep but it should be a tough attempt. The hardest parts will be crossing the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the latter of which could take five days and nights.

Autonomous drones that are solar powered are capable of sustaining flight for weeks at a time. This will be the longest a manned solar flight has stayed aloft for. Either Bertrand Piccard or Andree Borschberg, who flew the first Impulse, will be at the controls when the record attempt is made. 

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