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Last Updated: Monday September 10 2007 13:34 GMT

Solar plane smashes record

Undated QinetiQ handout picture of the Zephyr High Altitude Long Endurance

A solar-powered plane has smashed the world record for the longest flight time without anyone flying it.

The plane flew 54 hours powered purely by the sun, and experts reckon it's the first time a plane has flown under its own power through two nights.

The previous unmanned record was set in 2007 by a jet-powered US aircraft which flew for more than 30 hours.

But the new time won't go into the record books because officials weren't informed in time.

However, the official world record deciders, the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI), have been told about a later flight which lasted more than 33 hours which might now be listed in the record books.

Rechargeable batteries

Zephyr High Altitude Long Endurance solar plane
The solar plane
The plane, which is called The Zephyr High Altitude Long Endurance Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, was built by a UK company called QinetiQ.

In daytime it flies by solar power and by night it is driven by special batteries which are recharged during the day by the sun.

The plane set the new record during trials at a US military range in New Mexico.

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