Solar Impulse Flies Over San Francisco
On a test flight, the Solar Impulse aircraft flies at night over San Francisco, Calif.
Solar Impulse Over Golden Gate Bridge
This image, from a previous test flight, shows Solar Impulse flying over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Calif.
Solar Impulse - San Francisco
The Solar Impulse plane, as it flies around the San Francisco Bay area in California.
The plane, called Solar Impulse, departed from Mountain View, California for New York on May 3, 2013.
Along the way, the team will stop in Phoenix, Dallas, and Washington D.C., and plans to touch down in New York in late June or early July.
To accomplish this feat, the plane combines ultra lightweight construction, low power needs, and giant wings. The plane has a wingspan of a jetliner but weighs as much as a stationwagon.
Solar panels across the wings produce power during the day, while lithium polymer batteries use that power to fly the plane at night
Here, another view of the solar panels spanning the wing
Tiny energy needs
Though its wingspan rivals a commercial jet, the actual engine is tiny. The plane itself requires , about the same power needed by a small scooter. That's also about the same amount of power as the Wright Brothers' plane needed.
The plane carries only one pilot and zero passengers. For the around-the-world trip planned in 2015, the team wants to expand the cockpit so that it's at least as roomy as a business class.
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Tia is the managing editor and was previously a senior writer for Live Science. Her work has appeared in Scientific American, Wired.com and other outlets. She holds a master's degree in bioengineering from the University of Washington, a graduate certificate in science writing from UC Santa Cruz and a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. Tia was part of a team at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that published the Empty Cradles series on preterm births, which won multiple awards, including the 2012 Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism.