Today, in the solar industry there are hundreds of drone service providers (DSP) offering aerial inspection services, ranging in quality, experience, deliverables, and price. To ensure you’re getting the most value from each inspection, you should qualify the drone service provider before hiring them. We recommend asking the following 9 questions before determining who to choose as your DSP:
1. How much experience do you have in aerial inspections of solar PV systems?
We recommend requesting flight logs from the DSP. They should be able to provide you sample data sets and previous flight logs from other inspections. This will show you their level of experience and that they are professionals.
2. What can I expect to receive in my deliverables?
A DSP should be able to tell you exactly what you will be receiving in the deliverables from each inspection and that they will meet the level of detail you require. These deliverables should be available to you in the file formats your business uses.
3. Will your deliverables integrate into my current workflow?
The software and data outputs that they use is compatible with the systems you already have in place. The image format that is used should be the format that you or your team is used to.
4. What equipment are you going to use?
The equipment that they use is one of the most important aspects of the DSP you hire. They should be using payloads that are high resolution, radiometric, and correct lens types. The drone being flown should be a commercial level drone, and the DSP should be using a flight operations software that enables them to capture the right data.
5. How will you perform the solar PV inspection?
The DSP you hire will have the ability to breakdown the process that inspecting your site will require based on the level of detail you need. They should be aware of local environmental conditions and the proper time of day to perform the inspection.
6. How is post-processing managed?
After they collect the imagery, the data must be processed. The software they use should be able to properly find, classify, localize, and prioritize the anomalies at whatever level of detail you require.
7. What is your experience performing other inspections of sites and portfolios similar to mine?
The DSP you hire should have flight logs and previously completed jobs that demonstrate they are able to properly inspect a PV system or portfolio just like yours. This will prevent the possibility of hiring a DSP that isn’t equipped or qualified to.
8. Are you licensed and insured?
The DSP you hire should have their FAA Part 107 remote pilot certificate and proof of waivers. Do not consider any drone service provider pilot without this. They should also have both general liability insurance and UAS aviation liability coverage.
9. What is the timeline of this job? When will it be finished?
The DSP should be able to give you a checklist of what will happen before they go to the site, while they’re on-site, when each part of the job will be completed, and the post-flight data processing and deliverable timeframe.