[UPDATE: Thanks to Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk for tweeting earlier this evening to let us know that the site shown in this video is only a tiny proportion of the finished size…]
For nearly a year now, we’ve been closely following the construction of Tesla’s first Gigafactory, a massive 1,000-acre lithium-ion manufacturing and reprocessing facility in Reno, Nevada.
Essential to Tesla Motors’ [NASDAQ:TLSA] CEO Elon Musk’s ultimate plan of weaning the world off fossil fuels and onto clean, renewable energy for our homes and our transportation, the Gigafactory is due to reach completion next year and will ultimately produce upwards of 35 gigawatt-hours of lithium-ion battery packs and 55 gigawatt-hours of lithium-ion battery cells every year. When fully commissioned, it will employ more than 6,500 staff and will be the largest lithium-ion processing facility in the world.
Since groundwork first started back in July last year, long before the site was confirmed by Tesla as the official site for the Gigafactory, locals in Reno Nevada like plug-in advocate Bob Tregilus have kept us up-to-date with the construction thanks to some truly stunning high-resolution photographs. We’ve even seen some impressive aerial photography thanks to locals with their own light aircraft who have flown by the site from the air.
Now, thanks to the wonders of aerial drone technology and 4k ultra high-definition video, we’re able to see the Tesla Gigafactory in the kind of high-resolution detail never before seen.
The video, posted on YouTube yesterday evening by YouTuber QuickLaptopCash — a youtube channel we note previously hasn’t covered Tesla or electric vehicles — was recorded over the weekend and shows us for the first time just how incredibly gargantuan the Gigafactory site really is.
Thanks to the wonders of aerial drone technology and 4k ultra high-definition video, we’re able to see the Tesla Gigafactory in the kind of high-resolution detail never before seen
Describing the video, the poster says “to ensure safety this video was recorded while no workers were present and from over one mile away with a DJI Phantom 3 Professional Drone utilising GPS.”
The drone — available from various online retailers — comes complete with a 4K video camera and the ability to pan and tilt the camera remotely, giving us a really in-depth flypast of the Gigafactory site.
“The drone was in constant visual contact as well as maintaining an altitude of not more than 400 feet above ground level,” the poster informers us.
We’ve found ourselves watching the video several times on loop this morning, and each time, we pick out something new to remind us of just how large the Gigafactory really will be when it is completed next year. Aside from the many cranes and earth-movers which are parked up in various places on the site — all of which look like children’s toys against the mighty construction of the Gigafactory — the two neighbouring 17-acre facilities in the distance look positively small against the Gigafactory’s footprint.
In one shot, a portable lighting mast with attached generator — something that usually towers over construction sites — sits in the foreground, barely recognisable against the massive construction site behind it.
We suspect this won’t be the last drone flight video we see of what we’re going to call a wonder of the future post-oil world.
It’s not even finished. As one of the higher fly-over shots shows us, there’s still substantial ground work to be done, with clearly visible dark circles in the ground marking where future uprights will be positioned. Indeed, as Tesla CEO Elon Musk disclosed during Tesla Motors’ Q1 2015 earnings call, overwhelming demand for Tesla’s recently-launched Tesla Energy products — all of which need a strong, steady supply of lithium-ion cells from the Gigafactory to keep up with demand — means that Tesla is already considering expanding its Gigafactory footprint even further.
By the time is is completed next year, Tesla will have spent an estimated $5 billion on its construction and commissioning, with Japanese electronics giant Panasonic believed to be investing a further $1 billion of its own funds in the project as a joint Gigafactory partner.
With that in mind, we suspect this won’t be the last drone flight video we see of what we’re going to call a wonder of the future post-oil world.
[UPDATE: May 19 Earlier this evening Tesla CEO Elon Musk made the following size clarification on Twitter. Apparently, the Gigafactory is a little bit bigger than we actually thought…]
This is not the full Gigafactory, it is just the pilot plant (1/4 size) https://t.co/gz2EmJkYtm
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 19, 2015
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