How to Select a Vendor for Aerial Thermography of PV Systems

How to Select a Vendor for Aerial Thermography of PV Systems

Aerial thermography is now the rule, rather than the exception in the solar industry. Requests for proposals will include a scope such as “Perform an aerial thermography analysis of 100% of the PV modules using a qualified supplier with appropriate expertise on an annual basis,” and include specific requirements for use cases such as commissioning, preventative maintenance, and warranty claims.

Aerial thermography has become the standard for utility-scale, commercial and industrial (C&I) for the commissioning, operation, and merger and acquisition phases of the solar lifecycle.

What is Aerial Thermography?

Aerial thermography is the most efficient way to inspect operational PV systems and has replaced IV curve tracing as the preferred method. In short, aerial thermography involves an aircraft (unmanned or piloted) with a thermal and color camera, flown in a specific pattern with data captured according to applicable standards (such as the IEC) subject to certain environmental conditions. Most importantly, aerial thermography involves analyzing and contextualizing the findings to increase PV system production and minimize cost and risk.

An aerial thermography inspection being performed through a drone (UAS). 


The Vendor Landscape

As this method grew in popularity, many vendors jumped to capitalize on this new and growing opportunity, and there have been 2 common approaches:

  1. Drone hardware and service vendors that view solar aerial thermography as another type of asset for inspection
  2. Solar inspection vendors primarily driven by services and a single inspection technology, such as piloted aircraft

The Raptor Maps approach is solar-specific software. Our emphasis is on input data, advanced analytics, and benchmarking. We use industry standards to determine the right hardware and the best methodology to capture data depending on the customer needs. Customers can either self-perform data capture or leverage Raptor Maps for the turnkey service.

This article will focus on the necessary aspects of an aerial thermography software solution and enable customers with an aerial thermography need to educate themselves, ask the right questions, and make informed decisions.


Feature Raptor Maps Solar Software Airplane-Only Inspection Vendors Drone Vendor
Adherence to IEC TS 62446-3:2017 X X
Widely Accepted for Commissioning, O&M, and Warranty Claims Some X
Import or Request Non-Thermal Data and Analytics to Create Your System of Record X X
All-inclusive Pricing with No Hidden Fees X Some
Original Inspection Data and Reports Shareable with Counterparties at System Level X Some
API Integration to Connect to Your Software Tools X X


The Importance of Software for Aerial Thermography


Software enables PV system owners and operators to create both immediate and long-term value. 

It begins with verifying input data quality, creating a digital model, and ends with a portfolio-wide assessment of operational risk and findings. These findings can be shared with internal and external stakeholders, such as owners, technicians, module manufacturers, EPCs, and more to drive action and remediation. 

Software that manages the solar lifecycle is purpose-built to provide output files and formats that are most useful to a given counterparty, without the need for reinspection.

Below are some considerations for specifying an aerial thermography solution:

Solution Should Increase Efficiency and Meet SLA

  • Identify, classify, localize, and prioritize findings to drive action
  • Collaborate with counterparties in-app via shared reports and original data
  • O&M and IE teams can make data-driven decisions to deploying labor and capital resources effectively
  • Scale seamlessly as you develop and acquire new portfolios of utility-scale and C&I assets

Solution Output Should be Accurate

  • Support multiple inspection and analysis levels
  • Detect anomalies from inverter down to cell level
  • Provide defensible data for warranty claims and commissioning inspections
  • Minimize false-negative and false-positive rates in data and findings.

Solution Should Provide Original, Auditable Data 

  • Data proved to be captured and analyzed following the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) TS 62446-3:2017 standards for aerial thermography solar PV inspections
  • Integration of pyranometer data to prove minimum irradiance level during the inspection
  • Original radiometric thermal and color data provided for the entire PV system without false blending anomalies
  • Data and capture conditions can be reviewed systematically by equipment manufacturer and data scientists

Solution Should Reduce Risk

  • Benchmark your PV systems and portfolios against a statistically significant global dataset of findings and module manufacturers
  • Utilize features such as file storage and sharing at the PV system level to save critical documentation, such as warranty information
  • Seamlessly transition from EPC to O&M through the creation of a baseline commissioning assessment that can transfer to future asset management teams

We have taken a different approach to the industry’s adoption of aerial thermography because the software is a required component to scaling the solar industry to where it needs to be. We built our software to reduce bottlenecks, increase necessary collaboration, and provide required data products to improve industry-wide decision making. To learn more about Raptor Maps and our software and services, contact us.

© 2021 Raptor Maps, Inc.

444 Somerville Ave.
Somerville, MA 02143

Press Release: Raptor Maps Raises Series A

Press Release: Raptor Maps Raises Series A

Raptor Maps Raises $5M for its Solar Lifecycle Management Software

Company will use the funding to build on its successful software platform and meet customer demand


BOSTON, MA, August 26, 2020 — Raptor Maps, a solar software company, announced that it has raised a $5 million Series A, co-led by Blue Bear Capital, Data Point Capital, and Buoyant Ventures. Other participants include notable clean energy investors Congruent Ventures, Powerhouse Ventures, and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, along with Y Combinator.

Raptor Maps solves major growing pains for solar project finance, development, and asset management across an industry experiencing a 49% annual growth rate over the past decade. The current approach to developing and operating solar farms is increasingly untenable, resulting in demand for software and standardization of required processes and documentation.

“Our mission is to build software that enables the solar industry to scale,” explains Raptor Maps co-founder and CEO Nikhil Vadhavkar. “We are on track to be the system of record, and we already serve as the source of truth that our customers rely on for collaborative decision-making. The diversity of our investor base, including those that have experienced these pains firsthand, underscores that we cannot afford to take a reactive approach in the climate fight.”

To date, Raptor Maps has improved the project finance and asset management of over 25 GW in 35 countries. Its diverse and growing customer base includes global utility Enel Green Power, asset owner Greenbacker Renewable Energy, construction company McCarthy Building Companies, operations and maintenance (O&M) providers QE Solar and SOLV, and several publicly traded solar panel manufacturers.

“People think of solar as being just panels and wires,” says Ernst Sack of Blue Bear Capital, an investor specialized in energy, infrastructure, and climate solutions. “The industry has evolved to rely on a tremendously rich and complicated supply chain, with dozens of operations and hundreds of counterparties involved in any given plant—just as one would expect for other energy and infrastructure asset of this scale. Raptor Maps is building the digital operating system to coordinate and manage all of this activity for maximum productivity, efficiency, and safety.”

Raptor Maps attests that its deliverables are ten-fold more accurate, human and machine readable, and lower cost than traditional methods. The company has built a strong reputation for its software and aerial intelligence, and it will deploy this investment to build additional capabilities into its state-of-the-art solar data model.

“Raptor Maps is leading the charge to digitize the solar industry, resulting in both immediate and long-term benefit,” explains Daniel Hullah of Buoyant Ventures, a fund that invests in early stage, digital solutions that address climate risk. “The company makes solar power more valuable and accelerates the transition to clean energy.”

Several of Raptor Maps’ customers, such as Madison Energy Investments, require solar construction companies to use Raptor Maps at commissioning, and the O&M teams to use Raptor Maps annually. Other customers, such as solar panel manufacturers, direct asset owners to use Raptor Maps to create documentation for warranty claims.

“We’re thrilled to be investing behind the Raptor Maps founders and team,” says Mike Majors, Managing Partner at Data Point Capital. “Their deep experience in building cutting-edge software has positioned the company as the leader in the multi-billion dollar solar lifecycle management space.”

© 2021 Raptor Maps, Inc.

444 Somerville Ave.
Somerville, MA 02143

Client Highlight October 2020 –  Cypress Creek Renewables

Client Highlight October 2020 – Cypress Creek Renewables

In the first edition of the Client Highlight series, we’re honoring Cypress Creek Renewables, one of the United States’ leading solar and storage companies and a partner of ours.



Who is Cypress Creek Renewables?


Cypress Creek Renewables is a nationwide integrated solar and storage company that develops, owns, and operates an extensive portfolio of utility-scale and distributed solar PV systems. Based in North Carolina, Cypress Creek has over 1.6 GW in its portfolio, spanning 14 states.

In addition to managing its own portfolio, they also offer hire-able Operations & Maintenance (O&M) and Asset Management services. To date, the Cypress Creek O&M team maintains over 3 gigawatts of solar assets distributed around the country. As one of the country’s largest O&M providers, they offer 24/7/365 monitoring from their NERC-certified Networks Operation Center to ensure the maximum production of sites under their management. Their O&M and Asset Management services provide contract and compliance management, technical and financial performance review, and fleet optimization.

Cypress Creek’s impressive internal drone program was one of the first comprehensive drone programs developed in the industry, launched in 2016. To date, Cypress Creeks’ drone program has scanned multiple gigawatts of modules. They can comply with IEC 62446-3 standards, the global standard for aerial thermography, when necessary.


Our Story


Cypress Creek Renewables chose Raptor Maps to support their self-operated drone inspection and analyze the massive amounts of data produced. Through the years of our partnership, Cypress Creek has inspected hundreds of megawatts of solar PV systems and used our software to receive inspection analysis and reports. They quickly realized the value of combining aerial thermography with ‘boots on the ground’ when it resulted in minimized truck rolls and reduced O&M costs.

“Cypress Creek’s in-house Unmanned Aerial Systems team has performed over 10GW of aerial thermal inspections, including Raptor Maps and in-house analysis. With IR scanning, we see advantages with improvements to safety and cost reductions. 

With IR scanning, we were able to remove IV curve tracing, which involves physical interaction with electricity, from our annual maintenance.  Instead, we’re able to perform non-contact testing while increasing our efficiency and the quality of our results.

Comparing IV curve tracing to IR scanning, we can IR scan 100% of a solar facility in 5-10% the time, or less, it would take to IV curve trace. There is also equipment downtime associated with IV curve tracing that is not necessary when IR scanning. We are also able to now diagnose specific module anomalies to a precise location, which was not possible with IV curve tracing.

Additionally, we have been able to perform predictive maintenance on overhead medium voltage hotspots during off-peak hours, preventing un-planned site outages, equipment damage, or potentially dangerous events. We can also utilize our internal UAS fleets to react to events such and ground faults, underperformance, floods, natural disasters, without requiring technicians to be in the array. When responding to ground faults or underperformance, the use of our thermal UAS fleet turns days of searching into a few-minute flight.” 

– Mitchell Durant, Reliability Engineering Program Manager at Cypress Creek Renewables. 

Raptor Maps is proud to have Cypress Creek Renewables as one of our clients and partners. Their great depth of knowledge and experience in the industry is invaluable to us, and we’re inspired by their accomplishments.


© 2021 Raptor Maps, Inc.

444 Somerville Ave.
Somerville, MA 02143