Battery event scuppers Solar Impulse

July 16, 2015 | 02:08
Some of the Solar Impulse team
Some of the Solar Impulse team
During the most recent leg of its circumnavigation of the globe the solar powered Solar Impulse 2 suffered what was termed "irreversible" battery damage which is likely to keep it grounded inside a hangar in Hawaii until the damaged cells can be replaced. The flight over the Pacific from Nagoya Japan to Hawaii took around 117 hours and 52 minutes and broke the record for the longest solo flight in the history of aviation. Back in 1927 Charles Lindbergh took just 33 hours and 30 minutes to fly the Atlantic.

The total distance travelled on the record-breaking leg was 3,900 nm and the aircraft had to contend with cloud brought in by two cold fronts, which reduced the energy uptake and caused the stored battery charge to fall to critical levels. The craft was piloted by André Borschberg on this leg and he routinely managed to grab around eight breaks a day lasting between 5 and 20 minutes during the five day voyage.

The battery damage actually occurred on the first day of the leg during climb-out from Nagoya airport when the cells overheated. The aircraft is so delicate that flying conditions need to be near perfect before a flight can be considered and it is thought that the remainder of the circumnavigation will now most likely be completed in 2016. Despite the setbacks the team remain confident they will achieve this remarkable zero-energy milestone.
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