The next version of the first solar powered aircraft to travel around the world will be autonomous, after overcoming key problems with its lithium ion batteries, writes EETimes Europe.
Solar Impulse 2 landed back in Abu Dhabi yesterday after a 15 month round trip of 17 legs and 40,000 km. The prototype of the autonomous version, supported by ABB and Solvay, is planned for 2019 as an aerial basestation similar to Facebook’s Aquila.
The craft uses 17,248 photovoltaic cells that produce a peak power of 66kW from the 270m2 coverage. These supply four 41kWh lithium ion batteries that weigh a total of 633kg, a quarter of the total weight of the craft at 2.3 tonnes. Four 41kWh motors drive the aircraft at speeds up to 140 km/h (87mph) and up to 12,000 m (39,000 ft). The lessons for the embedded technology development from the battery management system and the autopilot will be applied to the autonomous version, and the power figures suggest there is sufficient additional power for the basestation and communications links.