20MW Panels Photographed, Analyzed in 2 Days by Using Drone (1)

2MW of panels analyzed in only 3 minutes using AI

2019/05/21 12:44
Shinichi Kato, Nikkei BP Intelligence Group, CleanTech Labo
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The market for aerial solar panel inspection using drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) was established following aerial shooting of still and moving images. Such services are improving daily on a trial-and-error basis.

A drone improves the efficiency of shooting operations, which is an advantage of using a drone. The efficiency is also being improved for operations after using the drones. Energy Solutions Inc of Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, is one of the companies that reflect the improved post-operations in actual services. Inspections performed by the company are introduced in this report.

The report covers inspections at a mega (large-scale) solar power plant constructed on the former site of a golf course in the Tohoku region. Inspections were performed by using a drone in July 2018 (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1: Aerial shooting at mega solar power plant constructed on former golf course site in Tohoku region (source: Nikkei BP)

About 70,000 solar panels with an output of roughly 20MW are installed on the site that covers about 80ha. The company has been entrusted with inspection of solar panels using a drone at this mega solar power plant for three consecutive years since 2015.

Solar panel inspections by drones are started by shooting thermal distribution images. An infrared camera is mounted on a drone for aerial shooting to obtain these images. The process of obtaining thermal distribution images is significantly improved just by using a drone.

Conventionally, inspectors walked along arrays (units of installed panels) on the site, carrying a portable infrared camera, and shot images of solar panels one by one. If the site is large and has many solar panels, an enormous amount of time and effort is required. Inspectors have to walk a long distance and the physical burden is substantial.