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Solar Panel Inspection Employs Drone, AI, Automatic Reporting (1) (page 3)

Mosaic abnormalities caused by lightning can be detected

2019/07/24 18:13
Shinichi Kato, Nikkei BP Intelligence Group, CleanTech Labo
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Company operates school, shoots panels from sky by drones balancing technologies, legal compliance

The aerial shooting by drones in the pre-process was commercialized by adding newly obtained knowhow specific to aerial shooting of solar panel thermal distribution images to the knowhow accumulated by the services intended for the industrial sector.

The company also operates a school accredited by the drone-related organization Japan Drone Consortium (JDC). Procedures for checking drone operation knowhow and ability are simplified when the persons who attended the courses offered by the school obtain permission to fly drones. The predecessor of the consortium is Mini Surveyor Consortium established by Kenzo Nonami, professor of Chiba University.

The company accumulated the knowhow on legal conformity, in addition to the technical knowhow, through these efforts. Conformity to related laws including the Civil Aeronautics Act and the Act on Prohibition of Flying Compact Unmanned Aircraft and rules specified by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) is required for flying drones.

Utility poles and transmission lines of power companies are generally installed on or near mega solar plant sites. The presence of such objects affects the regulations on flying drones, namely "Flying is prohibited in areas within 30m from properties owned by third parties" specified by the Civil Aeronautics Act. Utility poles for grid connection and transmission lines that extend from the poles are the "properties owned by third parties." Therefore, drones must fly avoiding areas 30m or less from utility poles and transmission lines for aerial shooting of images that allow accurate identification of defects in solar panels.

Some companies fly drones without legally conforming, which is an issue to be solved by the industry. The strict attitude regarding legal conformity may be the strength of the company under such situation.

As for skills, the difference in elevation between panels and the camera, shooting angle and illumination intensity need to be balanced to optimum levels according to the resolution and shooting performance of the infrared camera mounted on the drone, which are requirements specific to aerial shooting of solar panels. The balancing skill was improved by training, according to the company.

Panels are often arrayed on the ground making good use of undulations at mega solar power plants constructed in mountains. If a drone is flown at a constant height over such power plants, the difference in elevation between panels and the camera and the shooting angle cannot be maintained at a certain range. Automatic flight route setting eliminating these issues is part of the knowhow.

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