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Solar Impulse Sets Course for Fuel-Free Flight Around World

In about a month, two Swiss pilots will attempt a record-setting flight around the world without using any fuel, and on Tuesday they announced the route for their ambitious journey aboard their solar-powered plane, Solar Impulse 2.

Pilots Andre Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard will begin their slow-and-steady voyage from Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates in late February or early March.

They'll stop in Muscat, Oman; the Indian cities Ahmedabad and Varanasi; Mandalay, Myanmar; and the Chinese cities Chongqing and Nanjing, according to Solar Impulse's description of the route.

Big Idea: A plane that can fly without fuel 3:50

Next, they'll touch down in Hawaii, as well as three places in the continental United States: Phoenix, a to-be-determined location in the Midwest, and New York City's John F. Kennedy International Airport. Borschberg and Piccard will then cross the Atlantic and stop somewhere in southern Europe or northern Africa before returning to Abu Dhabi by late July or early August. [Images: Cross-Country Flight in a Solar-Powered Plane]

The pilots have been flying increasingly ambitious solar-powered missions to draw attention to the possibilities for clean energy. In the summer of 2013, they made a record-setting, coast-to-coast journey across the United States using their first ultralight aircraft, Solar Impulse.

The plane also completed a 26-hour overnight flight in 2010 and flew from Switzerland to Morocco in 2012.

Solar Impulse was the first aircraft capable of flying day and night without fuel. Its solar panels harvested energy from the sun, which could be stored in onboard batteries that allowed the plane to stay powered overnight.

The new carbon-fiber plane, Solar Impulse 2, is covered in 17,248 solar cells and has a wingspan that measures 236 feet (72 meters) across. The pilots unveiled Solar Impulse 2 in April 2014.

— Megan Gannon, LiveScience

This is a condensed version of a report from LiveScience. Read the full report. Follow Megan Gannon on Twitter. Follow LiveScience on Twitter, Facebook andGoogle+.