Zero-fuel plane Solar Impulse 2 (Si2) has successfully completed first ever round-the-world flight using only solar energy as fuel.

The flight mission marked completion, when the Si2 aircraft, which was piloted by initiator and chairman Bertrand Piccard, landed at its starting point in Abu Dhabi following a final leg of 48 hours and 37 minutes from Cairo.

The Si2 is the first aircraft of its kind that is designed to fly day and night without using traditional fuel.

The record-making journey was undertaken by the founders of Solar Impulse and Swiss pilots Andre Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard.

Piccard said: “This is not only a first in the history of aviation; it’s before all a first in the history of energy. I’m sure that within 10 years we’ll see electric airplanes transporting 50 passengers on short to medium haul flights.

“The same clean technologies used on Solar Impulse could be implemented on the ground in our daily life to divide by two the CO2 emissions in a profitable way. Solar Impulse is only the beginning, now take it further! ”

Designed to cruise at an average speed of 70km/h, the aircraft has voyaged more than 42,000km over the 17-stage journey.

Co-founder and pilot André Borschberg said: “There is so much potential for the aeronautical world: while one hundred percent solar powered airplanes might take longer to materialize, electric airplanes will develop in the near future because of their tremendous advantages such as energy efficiency.”

The project is being supported by Solvay, Omega, Schindler and ABB. Abu Dhabi-based renewable energy company Masdar is a partner in the project.

Made of carbon fiber, the Si2 has a wingspan of 72m and features 17,248 monocrystalline silicon solar cells.

Image: The Solar Impulse aircraft lands in Abu Dhabi. Photo: © Solar Impulse/