Here’s the NY Times article:
This is very exciting news for solar technology. While solar powered planes have flown before, what’s exciting about this flight is that the plane will still be able to fly at night. It has always been a shortcoming of solar powered objects that they cannot run without, well, sunlight. The article implies that the craft’s ability to store and efficiently use solar energy is what lets it have an extended flight time. In fact, the pilots say that the plane is thus capable of continual flight, with the need to stop only dictated by the needs of the pilots.
While my imagination is quite pleased at the thought that this plane would technically never need to land (good for drones, says the article, which makes sense), this sadly does not look like it will reach commercial status soon, replacing those big, fuel-hogging jetliners. However, it does represent a step forward both for solar technology as well as energy storage. Being able to combine more efficient means of harnessing solar energy with more efficient means of storing it (batteries) will help solar gain more traction as the energy source of the future.