New Thermal Drone Solutions Launched for Solar Plant Inspection

By Mike Ball / 30 Apr 2019

senseFly Solar 360 inspection UAS

senseFly, a provider of fixed-wing drone solutions, has announced the introduction of its new senseFly Solar 360 at the AUVSI XPONENTIAL 2019 trade show. Created in collaboration with software company Raptor Maps, this new offering is an efficient thermal drone solution that enables the automatic assessment of solar plant performance at a sub-module level.

Created by combining eBee X fixed-wing drone technology, senseFly’s Duet T thermal mapping camera, and Raptor Maps’ software, senseFly Solar 360 is a fast and fully-automated solution. It is easily integrated into solar management workflows without requiring either drone piloting skills or the manual analysis of aerial solar farm data.

“At senseFly we are continually looking across the industry to identify new commercial partners with whom we can bring to market what our customers need, which is vertically-focused end-to-end solutions,” said Gilles Labossière, CEO of senseFly. “With Raptor Maps, we are collaborating with a true solar industry pioneer. Their software takes the guesswork out of solar farm inspection and, crucially, speeds up this process – from days down to hours. This efficiency, combined with the eBee X’s large coverage and reliability, ensures that farm owners and operators — or the drone service providers they employ — can inspect utility-scale solar farms more quickly, easily, and accurately than ever before.”

“Solar power is the largest source of new energy generation in the world,” said Nikhil Vadhavkar, CEO of Raptor Maps. “This rapid growth has fueled demand for industry-specific solutions to allow solar customers to scale. Our enterprise-grade software has been deployed across six continents and 25 million solar panels to increase power production and reduce risk and maintenance cost across solar portfolios. We are proud to collaborate with senseFly, the industry leaders in commercial fixed-wing drones, to increase access to Raptor Maps while providing a comprehensive, end-to-end solution that scales with the solar industry.”

Users can inspect solar farm installations of up to 150 MW in a single day, enhancing operational efficiency by up to 300 times versus ground inspection using a handheld thermographic sensor (500 kw per day). The senseFly eBee X drone can fly for up to 70 minutes when carrying the senseFly Duet T thermal/RGB mapping camera. This allows 65 ha (161 ac) of sub-module level anomalies to be documented in a single 42 m (138 ft) flight — double the inspection coverage of multi-rotor systems.

The eBee X drone makes collecting thermographic data of solar farms easy and efficient. It captures radiometric thermal and visual RGB imagery without the need for a trained pilot. Raptor Maps software then generates a detailed and actionable inspection report, using the eBee X’s RGB and thermal imagery to identify, classify, and localise anomalies automatically.

senseFly Solar 360 minimises staff time on-site and thus associated labour costs. It achieves this via the eBee X’s extensive single-flight coverage, which reduces the number of battery changes required, while Raptor Maps software helps to drive significant cost savings by requiring fewer images for its analysis. The eBee X’s RGB camera data helps to deliver further cost benefits by generating a geo-accurate digital terrain model, which can be used to optimise a farm’s design.

This drone inspection solution also facilitates more frequent PV solar farm inspections, allowing problems at the string, module and cell level to be detected before they impact yield or cause a wider technical issue.

senseFly Solar 360 is supplied with the customer’s choice of Data Pack. These Data Packs are available in 50 MW, 100 MW and 200 MW variants, depending on the output capacity a customer expects to assess over the course of a year.

Posted by Mike Ball Mike Ball is our resident technical editor here at Unmanned Systems Technology. Combining his passion for teaching, advanced engineering and all things unmanned, Mike keeps a watchful eye over everything related to the unmanned technical sector. With over 10 years’ experience in the unmanned field and a degree in engineering, Mike’s been heading up our technical team here for the last 8 years. Connect & Contact