Solar is taking flights all over the world.

Solar-crafted planes have certainly been making news the last decade or two and, at present, the news keeps on coming. Although it’ll probably be awhile longer before solar powered airplanes may possibly be available commercially, the ideas, innovations, and continual trial and errors from research and development have already made footprints.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share the top 12 flying solar panels. Enjoy!



The Solar Impulse was designed by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Bertrand Piccard. The goal is to be able to one day take the aircraft full circle around the Earth. It is a single-pilot aircraft covered in monocrystalline solar cells with a wingspan of 70-meters.


The Helios was designed by NASA. It was an aircraft with a wingspan of 247 feet. Unfortunately, it crashed in June 2003.


The Centurion was designed by AeroVironment, NASA. It is a solar powered aircraft that can reach an altitude of 100,000 feet and travel at 12.5 mph.


The Zephyr was designed by QinetiQ. The aircraft could travel 155 mph and its wingspan reached 14 meters. It uses what is called low drag aerodynamics in order to fly for several months at an altitude of 132,000 feet.


The Pathfinder Plus was designed by AeroVironment, NASA. Its features include telecommunication platforms and can fly at an altitude of 24470.868 meters. It is a newer version of the Pathfinder and is part of NASA’s Environmental Research Aircraft and Sensor Technology.


The Solar Challenger was designed by AeroVironment, Dupont Corporation. It weighs in at 90 kg and has a wingspan of 14.3 meters. Its altitude reaches 12,000 feet. It was designed to fly from Paris to England.



The Sky Sailor was designed by Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich. This was a prototype designed for future space search, particularly Mars. It weighs in at 2.6 kg and has a wingspan of 3.2 meters.


The SOLITAIR was designed by DLR Institute of Flight Systems. Its wingspan is 5.2 meters. It is an unmanned, solar powered aircraft designed to conduct research in the northern European latitude.

#9: Solar-Powered Robot Bird

The Solar-Powered Robot Bird was designed by the University of Missouri – Rolla. It’s an unmanned aircraft with altitude reaching 30,000 to 40,000 feet featuring flapping-wings. The aircraft uses thin-film solar arrays and special shape changing material in order to make it more flexible and efficient than the Mars Rovers. It is a perfect flying machine to inspect outer space.


The SOLONG was designed by AC Propulsion and can fly continuously for over 24 hours by battery and solar power alone.


The Sunseeker was designed by Eric Raymond. Its final shape was given in the late 1980s/early 1990s.