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The Use of AI Drones for Large-Scale Solar Inspection

The Use of AI Drones to Fast Track Solar PV Inspection

Drone inspection is slowly making its way to the solar industry, and we had also mentioned our cooperation with our partner above in one of our recent news. We are now looking at a revolutionary time where large solar farms are being inspected not by a team of technicians but by highly sophisticated AI drone technology.

Compared to traditional solar inspection, the use of drones is proven to be more effective and efficient because of their speed and accuracy to do large-scale aerial solar inspections. Drones can ultimately help maintain the health of solar plants while cutting down much time and effort than other maintenance options.

Monitoring Photovoltaic Systems with the Help of AI Drones

Every photovoltaic system is dependent on regular maintenance. Without proper maintenance, timely repairs as well as cleaning, it is very likely that there will be a gradual loss of solar PV efficiency at an early stage.

The use of drones has now become a widely used option to check photovoltaic systems for probable damages and anomalies. It is also sometimes employed at the early stages of solar panel installation. With drone inspection, technicians no longer need to go out and individually check each panel using a hand-held device.

The complexity of accessing the entire solar PV system may sometimes vary and would require basic to superior drone technology. There are already numerous providers of drone inspections on solar systems, for example, the TÜV and many private companies

How Does PV System Maintenance Work With Drones?

Drones are highly sophisticated flying devices that can help detect heat anomalies in solar farms at an unimaginable speed. Drones with artificial intelligence are typically flown over solar systems and power plants several meters high and are configured to record images from a bird's eye view of the entire system.

By looking at heat differences captured by drones, solar operators can easily detect any anomalies in the solar modules. It is the thermal imaging cameras in the drones that detect malfunctions and other abnormal conditions in the system based on temperature differences.

In addition, the systems are usually also viewed with real image cameras. The system inspector can follow the flight and direct the pilot to critical points if necessary. The drone technology leads technicians directly to the problem and drastically reduces the time needed for inspection. This way, the maintenance team has a great overview of prevailing solar issues so they can immediately act on precise troubleshooting mechanisms to solve these problems. Furthermore, drone inspections are also recorded for later analysis.

What Errors and Damage to the PV System Can Drones Detect?

There are many anomalies that drones can detect, ranging from easy to fix problems to more complex ones. Here are some examples:

  • Pollution
  • Humidity
  • Storm or thunderstorm damage
  • Contact failure
  • Module failures
  • Damage from animal bites
  • Incorrect wiring
  • Cracks (in the solar cells, in the glass)
  • Defective bypass diodes

For more reliable results, drone inspections should be operated on dry days that are as cloud-free as possible.

The Efficiency of Drones for Solar Inspection

A case study by Measure revealed that infrared drone inspections yielded 97% operational efficiency with an average savings of $1254/MW than manual solar inspections. A huge difference was noted in terms of the number of hours spent between using drones and having several technicians using the traditional method. Here is a quick overview of the results:

Data from the case study by Measure

What are the Benefits of Using Drones for Inspecting Solar Systems

The most significant reason why the solar industry is switching to drone inspection is its speed and efficiency. Drones operate at an ultra-speed efficiency of covering 1 megawatt of solar in less than 10 minutes - this could take about 2 to 5 hours when done using IV Curve Tracing.

Another benefit of using solar drone inspection is reduced costs. It is tremendously cheaper to get the professional service of 1 to 2 drone pilots to inspect a large solar PV site in a day than employing a team of skilled technicians to go out and manually inspect each solar panel which could take more than a week. Moreover, there are also no downtimes when doing a solar drone inspection unlike in IV Curve Tracing where you have to unplug them and turn them off during the manual inspection. Drone maintenance is usually not very expensive either.

Lastly, drone inspection allows you to fix problems immediately as they arise. Drones have the ability to inspect every panel and identify failures so you can efficiently address these problems and thereby improve the overall productivity of your solar modules right away.

For Better Inspection Results: Improve the Solar Efficiency with PID Float Controller

Maintenance is important for the efficiency of your solar system. It is imperative to take effective measures to protect them from preventable damage. Essentially, one of the most common types of damage to PV systems is the PID effect - a degradation in performance due to polarization and leakage currents.

In case you are looking for a tried and tested solution to prevent the PID effect, you may check out Padcon’s PID Float Controller. It is a highly innovative product that protects your solar PV system against massive deterioration in terms of solar performance.

If you are thinking about investing in a solar PV system or if you already own one and want to protect it from the PID effect, then go ahead and contact us - we are happy to answer all your questions about the PID Float Controller.