Solar Impulse, the solar-powered airplane that is powered by just four lithium ion batteries and has made several long flights from location to location around the world as of late is currently grounded in Hawaii for repairs as overheating problems have been discovered with the plane's power system.
The flight that appears to have impacted the power system in this way was the recent five-day flight from Japan, which landed it in Hawaii. Those associated with the project are now trying to figure out what will be necessary to repair the plane and whether or not it will get to fly again this year.
Engineers aren't 100% sure yet what exactly needs to be replaced to get this airplane flightworthy again, so not only will it take time to make repairs, but it will also take time to do diagnostics to figure out what's faulty and what isn't.
"The damage to certain parts of the batteries is irreversible and will require repairs and replacements that will take several weeks to work through," the Solar Impulse crew said in a statement. "Solar Impulse does not see the possibility for any flights before 2-3 weeks at the earliest."
Estimates are pointing toward a 2-3 week wait to return to flight, but by then it could be too late to fly, as Solar Impulse relies on very specific weather conditions to fly safely due to it being a slower airplane with nearly no weight.
The month of August typically starts major weather changes in many parts of the world that could potentially mean that Solar Impulse may not be able to fly again until next year. This puts a major delay and dent in the Solar Impulse's plans; the solar-powered plane was scheduled complete its flight across the Atlantic Ocean this year.
It is an unfortunate delay, but it does show us that perhaps solar-powered airplane technology is not yet ready for the prime time. Solar Impulse is a very cool proof of concept that is very much in its beta stages, but scientists will have to build in fail-safes for events similar to these so that future solar-powered airplanes don't overheat from long flights.
At least the possible delays in Solar Impulse's mission will give engineers plenty of time to figure out how to improve on the power systems before it goes back up in the air.
Source: Yahoo! News