Webinar Recap: Live Q&A with Raptor Maps and FLIR: Thermal Drones and Solar Inspections

Webinar Recap: Live Q&A with Raptor Maps and FLIR: Thermal Drones and Solar Inspections

Raptor Maps partnered with FLIR Systems for a live 5-part webinar series on the use of thermal drones in solar inspections. The 5th part was a live Q&A webinar, the following summary of the questions asked and our answers can be viewed below. 

The first 4 parts of the webinar series are free on-demand videos discussing the following topics:

1. The Value of Adding Thermal for Solar Inspections

2. Thermal Drone Best Practices

3. Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Service Provider

4. Limitations of Thermal Drone Inspections

Part 5: Live Q&A Webinar

 

View the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=UTRukkQf9Cw

 

Below, are some of the questions we were able to get to with a summary of our answers given. 

What are some of the general uses of this technology in the solar space? 

There are many uses for thermal drones in the solar space. To start, when a solar farm is built doing a thermal inspection of it will confirm that the site was built correctly and the components are working properly. After that, either quarterly, semi-annually, or annually are also times that the solar PV system can be inspected. Doing this regularly will help the solar PV system be as productive as possible, allow you to know if the anomalies are warranty related issues, and make sure it reaches its full potential lifetime.  

What is the demand for drone companies in the solar industry?

There is a massive demand for drone companies performing thermal inspections on solar PV systems. In the last 6 months we have seen a sharp increase in the number of drone service providers entering the solar space because solar asset owners are demanding them. As the awareness of the benefits that using thermal drones in these inspections grows, more companies will look to adopt the technology in place of other inspection methods. 

One reason for the rapid growth is because currently a lot of solar PV systems are in uncontrolled airspace, allowing for drone service providers to be able to quickly and easily perform the inspection without having to go through regulations.  

 

At what size of a Solar PV system does an aerial solar inspection become valuable?

The answer to this is also very dependent on the age of the solar farm. For instance, a smaller but older solar PV site being inspected could bring considerable value to the ones receiving the report because as the PV systems age, the likelihood of anomalies occurring increases. We have found that anything over 100 kW, or roughly half an acre, is enough of a benchmark to see valuable results. The speed and accuracy that thermal drone inspections offer generates enough ROI to be chosen as the inspection method the next time an inspection is needed. 

For reference, one megawatt is roughly 5 acres in size. 

 

How does Raptor Maps train and qualify drone pilots, and how do I start a drone pilot program? 

For clarity, Raptor Maps does not offer a drone training program. We recommend going to well received places and using our, and FLIR’s resources on drone best practices. 

To start doing solar inspections, we recommend doing hands on drone training with your specific payload. You should take an in field drone training class. This will allow you to fully utilize the features of your equipment.  

 

Are you interested in learning more about UAS, drone inspections of solar assets, and having your data converted PV analytics and system reports? If so, please contact us here and our team will be in touch.

 

About FLIR, FLIR Systems is the world’s largest commercial company specializing in the design and production of thermal imaging cameras, components and imaging sensors, widely used in solar inspections performed by thermal drones. FLIR Systems was established in 1978 to pioneer the development of high-performance, low-cost infrared (thermal) imaging systems for airborne applications. They have serviced the needs of  customers all over the world. 

How Drones can be Used to Support Solar Inspections for Warranties

How Drones can be Used to Support Solar Inspections for Warranties

Using Drones and Software to Support Warranty Inspections

Aerial PV system inspections can be used for a variety of applications and reasons. The purpose of this blog post is to discuss the benefits of using drones and Raptor Maps for the inspections of sites for warranty reasons. Regular inspections of a PV system are a common part of asset management and O&M and need to be done regularly to maintain the validity of the warranty. Regular inspections also create data sets and reference points for future inspections, helping you identify the time period in which the problem started. 

In our experience across more than 10GW of PV inspections, there are 3 common options used for PV system inspections. Option A, Human labor consisting of field walks and visually identifying warrantable issues, option B, manned aircraft (airplane) inspection of a PV system, or option C, the use of drone technology to perform the inspection. Unless your solar PV system is extremely small and can be thoroughly walked and visually checked in a couple of hours, we have found that using a drone is the most efficient, cheapest, and quickest method. The capabilities of even an entry-level industrial drone reduce the inspection process time, and the amount of time it takes until you receive your report.  

Raptor Maps and drone difference

 

Application in Warranty Inspections

For warranty inspections that require a thorough review of every module on a PV system, aerial inspections by drone are completed in a fraction of the time when compared against human labor. The inspection and, which normally takes weeks, will take a drone a day or two (for commercial-scale and utility-scale systems. Once all imagery/data of the site has been collected with the drone, the data analysis and the creation of a detailed, clear, and actionable report with Raptor Maps can be completed in days. The process to identify modules with the warrantable issue is 1000 times faster. Instead of spending valuable time and labor on the inspection to find anomalies, you can spend this time on investigating the problems in more detail and laying out your warranty claim. 

Drones have a wide capability of what can be found. They’re able to detect:

Large scale issues.

Raptor Maps Inverter Anomaly Identified on Solar PV Plant

Inverter Anomaly Identified on Solar PV Plant.

Module defects.

Raptor Maps identified diode anomaly

One of many diodes identified during a warranty inspection.

Cell level anomalies. 

Raptor Maps identifies anomalies to cell level

Cell level anomalies are easily identified with thermal cameras.

If it can be identified visually, a drone will be able to find the problem. The Raptor Maps built report, will localize, and prioritize the defect so you know the severity of issues that are affecting your solar PV site. 

Raptor Maps Report Anomaly map

Image from a Raptor Maps report showing affected modules, and their location and severity.

Drones and Software Benefits

For anomalies that require thermography and can’t be seen by the eye, drones deliver the capability to detect thermal anomalies and accurate temperature deltas of those anomalies. This information enables you to know which modules are functioning correctly, and which are not functioning correctly. The data collected with a thermal drone also enables you to identify where the anomaly is located in the PV system down to the module level. When following the IEC standards for aerial thermography of a PV system, capturing the data at 3cm/px enables very specific detail to be reported on, and gives the warranty claims a stronger foundation as well. The thermal image resolution is critical for the accuracy of the findings. Using a manned aircraft/plane cannot deliver this high-level resolution and detail in thermal image resolution.

Raptor Maps imagery at 3cm/px

High-resolution image of a solar PV system flown at 1cm/px GSD showing module cracking.

Standardization

Inspections are also standardized when using a drone and data analysis software like Raptor Maps for your warranty inspections. We have strict data requirements for acceptable imagery. You’ll receive the same level of quality in each inspection analyzed through this process. Standardizing the inspection will allow you to build a database of more in-depth reference points, and create a higher level of certainty of correct anomalies because all inspections were performed and analyzed the same way, each time. 

When every aerial inspection of a PV system is performed the same standardized way and all data is reviewed by the same tool such as Raptor Maps, you are able to find recurring issues. This also enables you to take note of anomaly trends and further diagnose root causes including issues that could be due to a manufacturer defect or installation error.  Properly identifying the root cause with standardized data and reports enables you to file a warranty claim and replace the component instead of constantly addressing the same problems and increasing labor onsite. 

We have heard from several companies that own, manage, and maintain solar assets that the need for regular inspections up O&M costs. PV systems built with components that have known issues and require these regular inspections to catch new warrantable issues consumes significant time and labor bandwidth. Though the costs can be calculated and possibly budgeted for, using drones for these ongoing inspections and a credible software solution will reduce the amount of labor required. However, drones combat this and allow for time to be spent on other matters, and/or further investigating or field addressing the anomalies. 

Conclusion

In close, applying drones and software technology is an easier, less expensive, and more efficient way to inspect your solar PV system for warranties. The accuracy of the thermal cameras allows you to identify anomalies and track trends to build a robust case for the warranty claims. 

If you want a more in-depth breakdown of thermal drones application in solar inspections, check out our free 5-part webinar series created with FLIR!

If you would like to learn more about how using drones and software can support solar inspections for warranties please contact us HERE or email us directly through info@raptormaps.com. We can also help you learn more about our software that converts your inspection imagery into final reports that are accurate and easy to use for asset management and maintenance.

Raptor Maps and FLIR: Limitations of Thermal Drone Inspections

Raptor Maps and FLIR: Limitations of Thermal Drone Inspections

Raptor Maps partnered with FLIR for a five-part series with four videos and a live Q&A webinar on the use of thermal drones for solar inspection. The 4 part video series covers a variety of topics, such as the benefits of thermal cameras in solar inspections, best practices for inspections, questions to ask before hiring a service provider, and the limitations of thermal drones in solar inspections.

 

Video 4: Planning For a Successful Thermal Inspection

This video covers:

  • Camera and Environmental Limitations
  • Irradiance & Operating Status
  • Coverage & Flight Times

In the last part of the video series before the live webinar, the current limitations of the hardware are discussed. You will learn about the limitations of the actual hardware, like the camera’s themselves. You will also learn about outside factors that can be limiting, like environmental limitations, and irradiance and operating issues. Lastly, the video will discuss limitations within coverage and flight times. 

Check out the other videos in the series!

1                2               3               4

Are you interested in learning more about thermal drone inspections of solar assets, and having your data converted PV analytics and system reports? If so, please contact us here and our team will be in touch.

Raptor Maps and FLIR: Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Service Provider

Raptor Maps and FLIR: Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Service Provider

Raptor Maps partnered with FLIR for a five-part series with four videos and a live Q&A webinar on the use of thermal drones for solar inspection. The 4 part video series covers a variety of topics, such as the benefits of thermal cameras in solar inspections, best practices for inspections, questions to ask before hiring a service provider, and the limitations of thermal drones in solar inspections.

 

Video 3: Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Service Provider

This video covers:

  • Experience Levels
  • Payloads & Software
  • Deliverables & Timelines

Video Summary

This video will go over the questions you should ask before you hire a service provider to perform your thermal drone solar inspections. The questions will give you an idea of the service providers quality and experience. These questions will pertain to their knowledge of environmental regulations, insurance considerations, experience in the field, their hardware, and their software and deliverables.

 

Check out the other videos in the series!

1                2               3               4

Are you interested in learning more about thermal drone inspections of solar assets, and having your data converted PV analytics and system reports? If so, please contact us here and our team will be in touch.

Raptor Maps and FLIR: Thermal Drone Best Practices

Raptor Maps and FLIR: Thermal Drone Best Practices

Raptor Maps partnered with FLIR for a five-part series with four videos and a live Q&A webinar on the use of thermal drones for solar inspection. The 4 part video series covers a variety of topics, such as the benefits of thermal cameras in solar inspections, best practices for inspections, questions to ask before hiring a service provider, and the limitations of thermal drones in solar inspections.

 

Video 2: Thermal Drone Best Practices

This video covers:

  • Hardware Considerations
  • Producing Quality Deliverables
  • Identifying False Positives
  • Why Dual Sensors are Critical 

Video Summary

This video will discuss the best practices to be followed when performing a solar inspection with a thermal drone. It also highlights things that should be considered, such as environmental factors, and hardware considerations. As well as how to produce high quality imagery and deliverables, identifying false positives, and the importance of dual camera payloads. 

 

Check out the other videos in the series!

1                2               3               4

Are you interested in learning more about thermal drone inspections of solar assets, and having your data converted PV analytics and system reports? If so, please contact us here and our team will be in touch.

Raptor Maps and FLIR: Value of Adding Thermal for Solar Inspection

Raptor Maps and FLIR: Value of Adding Thermal for Solar Inspection

Raptor Maps partnered with FLIR for a five-part series with four videos and a live Q&A webinar on the use of thermal drones for solar inspection. The 4 part video series covers a variety of topics, such as the benefits of thermal cameras in solar inspections, best practices for inspections, questions to ask before hiring a service provider, and the limitations of thermal drones in solar inspections.

 

 

Video 1: Value of Adding Thermal for Solar Inspection

This video covers:  

  • Manual Electrical Testing for PV Fields
  • The Basics of Aerial Thermography
  • Thermography Considerations for Solar Inspection

Video Summary

This video explains the process of using a manual electrical testing inspection method. In addition, it breaks down the multitude of benefits that come from using thermal drones when performing your solar inspections. Lastly, the video offers all of the major points to know when it comes to thermal drones and solar inspections

Check out the other videos in the series!

1                2               3               4
 

 

 

Are you interested in learning more about thermal drone inspections of solar assets, and having your data converted PV analytics and system reports? If so, please contact us here and our team will be in touch.