Watch: Flying an ocean under solar power

The Solar Impulse team is proving that solar power can go much further than we though - but can it come into practical reality?

Here’s a really inspiring vision of a small team pushing the very boundaries of technology, to try and create a better future:

We’re clearly still in the foothills here – solar-powered commercial aircraft are a very long way in the future, if they come to pass at all. Indeed, it’s possible that other technologies might render airflight less meaningful for travel.

That doesn’t mean that innovation can’t happen. It’s just easier to create that innovation from without the traditional industry, as the Solar Impulse team point out. Constructing solar powered vehicles requires new approaches to power management and efficiency, structural weight and aerodynamics. If you want an example of that, look at the biannual Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, where teams worldwide design, build and race purely solar-powered vehicles through Australia.

While a solar airliner seems a distant dream, how much closer might be a solar-powered, autonomous car? And how would that cheap, time-efficient mode of transport change the way we live?