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Paul Pickering

Good Day, Sunshine – The Amazing Solar Impulse 2

Paul Pickering
9/14/2018 5:15:26 AM
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Re: Proof of concept
It is indeed remarkable how far technology has leaped thus far. It is not cheap running an airplane but to know that there is now an alternative source of energy to run one, it does not get anymore exciting than this. We should still review the pros and cons of this new setup though, looking at the fact that the safety of the pilot and passengers still becomes the number one priority. It is not in any way similar to other much simpler tasks such as powering up a house on solar or driving a car because an airplane happens to be in the air. Thus, the level of risks involved is much higher and hence requiring much more work than others.

8/2/2015 5:01:03 PM
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Proof of concept
Thanks for the great summary of the SIP2 mission.  I read on Fox News about the current status, and it seemed the project team were trying to downplay the battery failure.  They also quoted Bertrand Piccard, calling him an explorer and Chairman of Solar Impulse:

"Piccard sees the high-tech plane as proving the potential of renewable energy and clean technology. "This was my vision when I created that project – it was to have an airplane that can fly with no fuel," he told, during a phone interview last month. "This is fantastic, to prove that clean technology can achieve [the] impossible.""

It is surprising as well, the article paraphrsed the team as saying "the temperature effect of quick ascents and descents in tropical climates was not properly anticipated".  Using the figures you cited I roughly estimated 1000 man-years in the project.  Even if I'm off by 10, how can you spend 10s to 100s of man years on a project specifically designed to demonstrate the validity of a solar powered continuously operated vehicle, and overlook temperature issues that might adversely affect the batteries?

I think this is comparable to the Challenger disaster.  However, even in that case the problem was likely anticipated and it was a series of poor decisions leading to launch that led to the catastrophic loss of the spaceplane and boosters.  

Taking a less critical tone, I think this shows once again there is a lot to learn about the energy storage part of the equation for renewable energy.  I would rather have failures in a test demonstration than in commerially deployed systems.  Of course we have had a battery fire in a Boeing 787, another in a Tesla vehicle after hitting debris.  It can be hoped that this project proides invaluable infomation to make future designs more robust and commercial designs safer.

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