2.11. Batteries and battery chargers

While some drones are fuel engine based, the majority is powered by batteries. Batteries with high energy density (Wh/kg) are usually based on lithium compounds (lithium ion, lithium iron phosphate, lithium polymer or lithium titanate), all of which have different pros and cons.

The biggest problem with lithium-based batteries is that they can easily catch fire and even explode. To appreciate how dangerous they really are it is worthwhile to google ‘lithium battery explosion’ and watch some of the videos available online.

For this reason, lithium-based batteries must be stored in fireproof containers and must never be left unattended when charging or discharging.

Lithium-based batteries are used in most drones. Also fuel engine powered drones usually have them to power electrical components. Lithium-based batteries are also used in most control stations.

Actually all mobile phones have lithium-based batteries, but while those also occasionally cause problems, their usage in drones and control stations comes with higher risks for a variety of reasons.

Special care needs to be taken when lithium-based batteries are transported. Special cargo rules apply and need to be considered when transporting drones and control stations to remote locations.

Auditors cannot be expected to understand in detail how lithium-based batteries need to be handled, but they can verify that the staff handling the batteries has clear instructions. Auditors can also observe the storage areas for batteries and validate that no batteries (also not puffed-up ones) are left lying around carelessly.

Risks

  1. Battery fires and explosions can cause serious injury and damage to expensive equipment.
  2. Improper charging or discharging of lithium-based batteries can significantly reduce their useful life.

Audit Steps

  1. Conduct interviews to evaluate the awareness of staff handling lithium-based batteries of the special care they require when charging, discharging and storing them.
  2. Visit battery storage locations to review access controls and the usage of fireproof storage containers.
  3. Ensure that the charging and discharging of lithium-based batteries follows an established process and is attended by trained staff.
  4. Review the disposal procedure for lithium-based batteries.
  5. Review the process for transporting lithium-based batteries to remote mission locations.
  6. Review the average monthly expense for new lithium-based batteries and assess the reasonableness based on the number of monthly missions.

 

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