Solar-powered plane breaks world record

A solar-powered pilotless plane which was built in the UK has been recognised as having smashed the world record for the longest time spent in the air by an unmanned autonomous vehicle (UAV), after staying aloft for two weeks.

The record-breaking flight took place in July over the US and has now been ratified by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI), which governs air sports records. The 50kg craft remained airborne for 14 days, 22 minutes and 8 seconds – 11 times longer than the previous record.

Potential uses for the aircraft, which is built by defence technology company Qinetiq, include the long-distance tracking of hijacked ships and aerial monitoring of forest fires. Chris Kelleher, chief designer, said: "This aircraft can help track pirates off the Horn of Africa and also ensure that soldiers' communications remain unaffected when fighting in mountainous or hilly terrain."

Solar panels power the aircraft and charge lithium batteries which keep it flying at night.