The first airplane designed to fly day and night without fuel, the Solar Impulse HB-SIA, successfully completed its maiden flight at a military aerodrome near Zurich last week.

Built at a cost of $131m (£80m), the HB-SIA aircraft has used four solar-driven electric propellers to fly 350m (1,150ft) about a metre above the runway, during the test flight.

Bertrand Piccard, the Swiss aeronautical pioneer who designed the aircraft, and his partner Andre Borschberg intend to fly the single-seater Solar Impulse, weighing as much as a car at about 55km/h across the Atlantic and then around the world.

Before its maiden test flight, the Solar Impulse has underwent various ground tests to verify parameters such as the prototype’s controllability, acceleration, braking paths and engine power.