Solar Farm Inspections: Using Drones For Data Collection
Over the past decade the solar industry has experienced a growth rate of approximately 50 percent per year, making it one of the fastest growing industries in the energy sector. It is estimated that globally, approximately $1 billion per year is spent on labor costs, inspection and maintenance all of which a large factor in determining site profitability and longevity. Our goal at FlyGuys is to minimize the cost of these inspections by streamlining the way data is gathered while cutting down on errors in the process. Optimizing the efficiency of the inspection process is one of the key factors in maintaining a positive ROI and avoiding unnecessary costs. Drones not only cut down on inspection times significantly, but they also capture better data when inspections are conducted appropriately, making them an easy value-added solution for any PV site owner.
There are two key elements to every solar farm inspection: inspection type and data collection. Determining the right inspection for your particular PV site is crucial to get the information you need to implement the most cost-effective changes. Our partners at Raptor Maps, a premier PV analytics company, have already released a three part series outlining the pro’s and cons of the most common inspections: Overview, Standard, and Comprehensive. Overview aerial inspections are great for identifying large scale anomalies that have a significant impact on PV systems, standard inspections can also identify these large scale anomalies while also allowing for the analysis of all the individual modules on site, and the comprehensive aerial inspection is detailed enough to support warranty issues such as cracked modules and delamination. Picking the right inspection for your specific site is the first step in creating an effective maintenance strategy. To learn more about the individual inspections please visit the three part series written by our friends at Raptor Maps.
Another critical element of every inspection is data capture. While it is possible to capture all the data needed for a standard inspection of a 30 mw site all in one day, it is also easy to spend the day gathering data that is useless. At FlyGuys we have standardized the way we perform photovoltaic site inspections to capture the most accurate data possible so that analytics companies can process the information into actionable reports for our clients. Below is a list of variables that all go into performing the perfect data capture:
|Irradiance||Time of Day||Pitch|
|Flight Path||Orientation||Gimbal Angle|
|Altitude||Sensor Settings||File Types|
Finding the right pilot, or the right company, to capture proper data is as equally important to the maintenance and inspection process as picking the right inspection type. We plan on releasing another post in the future outlining how each of these variables can affect the data capture process as well as a list of best practices.