Drone Inspection of Solar Farms

Drone Inspection of Solar Farms

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- Philip Handley, Smart DCC Ltd.

The Challenge

Government incentives and lower cost Photo Voltaic (PV) cells have seen solar generation expand across the UK over the past decade. Solar energy is now capable of contributing close to 10 GW to the national grid in peak seasons.

Consequently, solar farms are big business. Maximising the efficiency of their operation really pays off for operators, but requires complex maintenance and advanced monitoring.

Our client, Above Surveying, approach Plextek to improve their inspection methods, previously a labour intensive activity performed by highly trained analysts.

As the business grew, airborne drones were utilised as a scalable solution to capture precise thermographic and video diagnostic data.

The challenge was to translate data collected from an airborne drone into a format that machine-learning tools could process. This involved removing solar glint and other artefacts and rationalising images with ground plans.

The Approach

Plextek provided consultancy recommending the best image processing and machine-learning work flows to allow automated data analysis.

Plextek worked closely with Above Surveying technical teams to assess feasibility of different approaches, settling on a recommendation that could be easily implemented within their existing processes and workflow.

The Outcome

Plextek’s input helped Above Surveying automate their analysis, removing a bottleneck to expanding their business.

Above surveying have now checked over 8.5 million solar panel modules, identifying more than 200,000 defects, allowing their solar farm customers to optimise efficiency and revenue.

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