The Use of AI Drones for Large-Scale Solar 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.

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.