Introduction to Aerial Thermography: Comprehensive Aerial Inspection

Introduction to Aerial Thermography: Comprehensive Aerial Inspection

Raptor Maps RGB comprehensive inspection

Comprehensive Level

The following series breaks down the three most common levels of aerial thermography inspections used by Raptor Maps to identify defects, faults, and anomalies affecting PV system performance. The inspections; Overview, Standard, and Comprehensive, differ in flight altitude, data capture time, level of analysis, and the level of detail in the final deliverables. While aerial thermography is often the most efficient method to inspect a solar PV system for performance issues, understanding the level of inspection you need will enable you to maximize ROI. In this article, we will go over parameters, use cases, and the pros and cons of Comprehensive Aerial Inspections

Raptor Maps 3 inspection types

Comprehensive level aerial IR inspections are performed in compliance with IEC standards, providing infrared thermal imagery at a 3 cm/px resolution and high-definition color imagery at a 1 cm/px resolution. This level of inspection is very common in Europe and regions where European asset owners operate, including Central and South America, and Australia. The inspection is performed at a lower altitude and speed compared to Standard and Overview level inspections, but in turn, it will provide highly detailed, sub-module level granular data. These inspections require a large number of man-hours and time-on-site to complete but deliver an incomparable level of insight into the inspected PV system.  

Pros:

Comprehensive level aerial inspections allow teams to completely understand the performance of each module in a PV system. Providing absolute temperature accuracy enables owners and management to accurately sort module and string-level anomalies by temperature to identify warrantable issues and prioritize remediation. This inspection type is IEC compliant and embraced by owners and banks. A set of strict requirements created by the International Electrotechnical Commission, an organization that creates standardization for electrical technology. Comprehensive level aerial inspections allow for accurate identification of anomalies as small as an overheated junction box and anomalous performing PV cells at a less than 1°C threshold. In addition, the level of detail provided supports warranty issues including delamination, cracked modules, and other anomalies that require very granular examination of modules.

Raptor maps comprehensive level anomaly

 

Cons:

As stated, these inspections comply with IEC standards, making them a viable choice for inspections of PV systems due to potential warranty claim, commissioning, diligence, and underperformance and many more use cases. They provide a highly detailed baseline that can be referenced throughout the site’s 20+ year lifetime. Aside from newly completed sites, these inspections enable teams to effectively repair operating sites that are underperforming for unknown reasons. Furthermore, they’re widely used for preventative maintenance inspections. Due to the ROI offered, asset owners and asset managers have globally utilized this inspection.

Industry Use Cases:

As stated, these inspections comply with IEC standards, making them a viable choice for warranty claim inspections. In addition, Comprehensive aerial inspections support due diligence inspections, as well as the commissioning and handover of PV systems. They provide a highly detailed baseline that can be referenced throughout the site’s lifetime. Aside from newly completed sites, these inspections enable teams to effectively repair operating sites that are underperforming for unknown reasons. Furthermore, they’re widely used for preventative maintenance inspections. Due to the ROI offered, asset owners and asset managers have globally utilized this inspection.

Raptor Maps turnkey onesheet

Conclusion:

Overall, Comprehensive level aerial inspections have enabled asset owners worldwide to adopt aerial thermography inspection within their asset management and O&M annual scope of work. Engineering firms have also adopted the Comprehensive level of aerial thermography for use in their various projects. This level of aerial inspection will continue to be utilized in the commissioning and handoff process, creating referenceable benchmarks for teams as well as proven to be a great support to warranty claims. 

If you would like to learn more about how using drones and software can support solar inspections for solar PV systems 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.

 

Introduction to Aerial Thermography: Standard Aerial Inspection

Introduction to Aerial Thermography: Standard Aerial Inspection

raptor maps thermal inspections

Standard Level

The following series breaks down the three most common levels of aerial thermography inspections used by Raptor Maps to identify defects, faults, and anomalies affecting PV system performance. The inspections; Overview, Standard, and Comprehensive, differ in flight altitude, data capture time, level of analysis, and the level of detail in the final deliverables. While aerial thermography is often the most efficient method to inspect a solar PV system for performance issues, understanding the level of inspection you need will enable you to maximize ROI. In this article, we will go over parameters, use cases, and the pros and cons of Standard Aerial Inspections

Raptor Maps 3 inspection types

Standard level aerial inspections are the most common choice globally for PV systems, providing infrared thermal imagery at a 5-6 cm/px resolution and high-definition color imagery at a 1.5-2 cm/px resolution. The altitude and speed of these inspections strike a balance between granular imagery with a short and affordable data collection process. Standard inspections bridge the gap between overview and comprehensive inspections, delivering an in-depth understanding of a site’s current operating condition without sacrificing time, costs, or quality. In turn, Standard level inspections have become the go-to for Operation and Maintenance teams worldwide. 

Pros:

Thermal aerial inspections performed at this altitude and capturing infrared thermal imagery at a can accurately detect sub-module level anomalies throughout the site while still identifying high-level anomalies covered with an Overview level inspection. The accuracy and level of detail in the data allows teams to understand the performance of 100% of the modules in the PV system. This enables teams to effectively plan where truck rolls and field visits are needed to improve asset and portfolio production. Though the sites are flown at a slower speed and lower altitude than overview inspections, a single drone can still cover 30 MW in one day on average. 

Raptor maps standard level inspection string anomaly

Cons:

A Standard level aerial inspection will have more detail than an overview inspection, but will not offer absolute temperature accuracy readings. If these inspections are used to determine the accurate temperature of a PV systems module, there could be a few degrees of variability. This is due to the limitations of today’s thermal sensor technology.

Industry Use Cases:

The amount of time required and level of detail yielded has made Standard aerial inspections a very strong option for O&M teams to use in their quarterly, semi-annual, and annual full-site assessments. They are also widely used for performing commissioning inspections, EPC handoffs, and for O&M teams to create a benchmark of system condition and performance for future reference.

Raptor Maps aerial thermography service

Conclusion:

To conclude, Standard level aerial thermography inspections are a commonly performed option between Overview and Comprehensive inspections. They allow for a fast, but detailed inspection of 100% of the solar PV system modules. They’re able to identify both large scale and sub-module level anomalies accurately. This makes the inspection ideal for the annual preventative maintenance inspections, as well as helping teams who are working with sites that suffer from consistent issues. However, they are unable to detect temperatures to the exact degree. Overall, these inspections provide a lot of insight quickly, supporting fast and data-driven decision making for asset management and O&M. 

If you would like to learn more about how using drones and software can support solar inspections for solar PV systems 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.

Introduction to Aerial Thermography: Overview Aerial Inspection

Introduction to Aerial Thermography: Overview Aerial Inspection

raptor maps thermal inspections

Overview Level

The following series breaks down the three most common levels of aerial thermography inspections used by Raptor Maps to identify defects, faults, and anomalies affecting PV system performance. The inspections; Overview, Standard, and Comprehensive, differ in flight altitude, data capture time, level of analysis, and the level of detail in the final deliverables. While aerial thermography is often the most efficient method to inspect a solar PV system for performance issues, understanding the level of inspection you need will enable you to maximize ROI. In this article, we will go over parameters, use cases, and the pros and cons of Overview Aerial Inspections

Raptor Maps 3 inspection types

Of the three types of UAV inspections, an Overview inspection is flown at the highest altitude, providing infrared thermal imagery at a 10-15 cm/px resolution and high-definition color imagery at a 5 cm/px resolution. These inspections are performed very quickly, due to a maximum flight speed of 30 MPH (48 KMH). Combined, the high altitude and speed allow for very large sites to be inspected quickly. 

 

Pros:

Overview aerial thermography inspections should be used to identify larger-scale anomalies with a significant impact on PV system performance. Particularly in the case of large scale PV systems (20 MW or more), and multiple smaller PV systems that are grouped together in the same geographic area. An overview inspection is the most economical solution to identify major faults and anomalies that will warrant a field visit and repairs. The thermal infrared and high-definition (HD) color image resolutions of this inspection enables the accurate identification of module, string, inverter, combiner, and other large scale anomalies. These high-impact anomalies cause a large loss in annual production and revenue and are the highest priority to resolve. Raptor Maps overview aerial inspection

Cons:

The main drawback to an overview aerial inspection is the limited image resolution and limit of what module and sub-module level anomalies can be correctly identified. The resolution of the data is low due to the current limitations of IR sensors. The level of detail in the HD color images is also low and has limits on what can be identified. This increases the chance of having a false positive for sub-module level faults, including diode and cell anomalies. Sub-module inspections require a higher image resolution and a lower flight altitude. Due to these drawbacks, absolute temperature accuracy is not available for Oviewview inspections. 

Industry Use Cases:

In the PV industry, Overview inspections have been used when teams are more focused on finding anomalies that have the highest power loss impact on their PV system. Teams then use the data to properly allocate resources on which PV systems or sections of PV systems need to be more thoroughly inspected. The overview inspection is widely applied by teams managing PV systems looking to quickly gauge the operating health and production. 

Raptor Maps turnkey onesheet

Conclusion:

In conclusion, an overview aerial thermography inspection will quickly and cost-effectively identify high impact anomalies, providing data on where further inspection should be focused. The speed and altitude make it efficient and economical to inspect PV systems of various sizes and densities. Though fast, they lack the detail to confidently identify sub-module level anomalies and can produce false-positives. Overall, these inspections are a good option for teams looking to quickly assess the health of a PV system and identify areas that need a more granular diagnosis. 

If you would like to learn more about how using drones and software can support solar inspections for solar PV systems 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.

The Benefits of Utilizing Aerial Thermography: Solar Commissioning Inspections

The Benefits of Utilizing Aerial Thermography: Solar Commissioning Inspections

Raptor maps Solar PV system aerial inspection

 

Solar PV Commissioning and Aerial Thermography

Solar Photovoltaic (PV) systems are the world’s fastest-growing source of renewable energy, holding an annual growth rate of 50% over the last 10 years. Due to the increased number of solar PV systems around the world, we wanted to help teams understand the importance of performing a commissioning inspection upon completion of a site. In this blog, we will highlight the value of correctly performing a commissioning inspection, the role that drones and software analysis have in commissioning a PV system, and tips to perform one correctly. 

The Benefit of Commissioning a PV system

Performing a commissioning inspection when the PV system is first completed creates opportunities for the asset owners and financiers that won’t be present a year or even months down the line. Upon the site’s construction finishing, the data gathered from commissioning inspections can be used to validate the quality of installation, as well as the condition of the plant’s modules. Understanding the state the PV system starts at is especially critical because it allows teams to fix any OEM issues in the warranty window. We’ve seen many clients use this technology at 3-6 month intervals to closely monitor the site while in this window of time. 

Raptor Maps commissioning PV system

The newly constructed PV system was found to have almost $20,000 of lost annual revenue in anomalies.

 

These inspections provide value to teams both immediately and over the course of the solar PV systems lifetime. To start, the data can be used by the EPC firm to quickly identify the areas that need improvement or to be fixed, and quickly begin solving the issues. Also, commissioning sites creates a baseline of production levels to compare to. Teams that maintain the site in the future will be able to check the baseline as a reference point and determine what the PV system production levels should be.

Raptor Maps IR anomalies identified

Aerial Thermography reveals issues throughout the PV system. Even newly constructed PV systems can contain faulty equipment.

 

Why Aerial Thermography

Drones are the suggested method to conduct a commissioning inspection and have been used on sites ranging from 50 kW to 400 MW. There are multiple reasons why aerial thermography and software should be used to conduct the commissioning inspection. First off, drones can be used to perform quality assurance inspections. Drones are faster, more accurate, and cheaper than manual commissioning inspections. Aerial thermography inspections allow for submodule level data on every module in the site. This is because drones can perform inspections that follow IEC requirements, which provide extremely accurate temperature data on the module level.

Upon deciding to have a commissioning inspection of the PV system, there are IEC compliant best practices that should be followed. This will ensure the results will be accurate and trustworthy down to the cell level of each module throughout the site. To begin, the inspection should be performed by a trained, experienced, and licensed pilot who has performed a commissioning inspection before, read this for more information on how to properly qualify a drone service provider. It is not recommended that a company purchases a drone and tries to learn how to fly it to perform these inspections. The results will not provide teams with the true condition of the site and the baseline for future reference points will be inaccurate.

Conclusion

In conclusion, commissioning inspections performed with aerial thermography are a highly reliable, and accurate assessment of the sites’ initial operating state. They’re more affordable, faster, safer, and are more scalable than other methods to commission a PV system. These inspections should be performed to IEC standards by experienced UAV pilots. They provide high-quality data that can be used to support warranty claims. As well as create a model to be referenced in the future.

If you would like to learn more about how using drones and software can support solar inspections for commissioning a PV system 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.

What is high-quality imagery (data) in solar construction monitoring?

What is high-quality imagery (data) in solar construction monitoring?

 

Using drones and software to monitor the progress of a solar construction project allows for exact and up-to-date measurements on its current status. However, high-quality imagery (data) is required to fully benefit from solar construction monitoring software. Without it, the information will be insufficient and the chance of incorrect reports increases. To capture high-quality imagery, two imagery (data) sets are needed: nadir images and oblique images. These monitoring missions are easy to fly and finished quickly. For example, performing set up and both missions took under 1 hour for a 10 MW site.

 

Nadir Images

 

Raptor maps Nadir Images construction solutions

 

The main point of nadir imagery is to collect high-resolution data to create an orthomosaic. These inspections are flown in a flight mapping style and provide quality data for the entire site. The progress of the construction site is clear when viewed in a map style orthomosaic. In addition, because the orthomosaic is made up of individual high-resolution images, it allows users to magnify the map and view sections in detail. The alternative would be to use a single high-fly image, which lack detail to accurately inspect construction progress. This makes it easy to compare numbers and metrics in the deliverables with those received from the field.

A nadir image is taken with the gimbal pitch pointed straight down, -90 degrees from the horizon. These images provide an extremely high-resolution view of the solar construction project. The images are taken at a lower altitude, enabling exact measurements throughout each stage of the construction project.

 

Oblique Images

 

Raptor Maps solar construction software solution

 

The second type of imagery (data) required for solar construction monitoring is obliques. With obliques, the angle is not straight down over the construction site but from afar and at an angle of -15 to -45 degrees from the horizon. These flight missions are shorter, flown circularly around the solar construction site, require less imagery to be captured, but are still very valuable. Since they’re at an angle, they can be used as a quality assurance check to both field reports and the nadir/orthomosaic data. The angle that they’re taken at allows for inspection of the solar construction site at a different angle. Since they’re flown relatively low, the resolution of the image is still high enough to magnify and inspect. For example, some beams might appear to have been installed but with the oblique images, it can easily be confirmed.

Raptor Maps Construction Monitoring

If you would like to learn more about construction monitoring software 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.

 

How Solar Construction Monitoring Software Benefits Asset Owners, EPCs, Engineers, and DSPs

How Solar Construction Monitoring Software Benefits Asset Owners, EPCs, Engineers, and DSPs

Raptor maps solar construction software

 

Benefit from Optimization

Solar PV is one of the world’s fastest-growing sources of renewable energy, with 2.1 GW installed during Q2 of 2019 in the United States alone. As the amount of PV installations increase, the construction process will need to be streamlined to keep up with the growing demand. The alternatives are longer project times, increased costs, and a higher risk of future issues.

The industry has taken steps to increase solar PV construction efficiency, and a demonstrated method has been consistent progress monitoring. Using drones to capture the data (imagery) and software for analysis has proven inexpensive and reliable option for it. By creating a searchable system of reports, teams are able to easily reference site development points and make sure benchmarks are being met. With Asset Owners, EPCs, Engineers, and DSP’s all having a vested interest in the completion of the project, increasing efficiency is a growing importance.

 

Asset Owners

Asset Owners have one of the largest stakes in the completion of the solar construction project. Proper construction of the PV plant ensures that it will operate and produce the expected energy levels, thereby maximizing the return on investment. Adding construction monitoring software will facilitate the success of these goals. The reports generated from each inspection are easily downloaded in familiar formats and will integrate with the software teams are currently using. These reports, generated as frequently as needed, enable easy and remote monitoring on the progress of any construction project and build a level of assurance that benchmarks will be met on time.

 

EPCs

When an EPC is hired to construct a solar PV system, seeing that it is built to industry standards while remaining in the budget and finishing on time. Doing so will help their reputation, increase their chances of being re-hired, and qualify them further. EPCs are able to use construction monitoring to decrease the chances of incurring costs outside of what was budgeted for. Being able to monitor progress as frequently as necessary keeps everyone up to date on the state of the project, assures benchmarks will be met, and the project will be completed on time. Budgeting for construction monitoring software before the project begins adds a level of quality control throughout each stage.

 

Raptor Maps Solar Construction Solution

 

 

Independent Engineering Firms

When engineering firms are hired for a solar PV plant construction project, it’s expected that the design, clearing and earthwork, and mechanical installation are all done correctly. Adding a drone monitoring and software analysis enables this. Pre-construction land surveying and topographical reports provide a bird-eye view to the area and prevent any last-minute adverse surprises. It will confirm the land clearing is performed correctly. Teams will be able to measure and rack volumes of earthwork to verify the site development follows the timeline. The reports offer quantified data on the progress of the installation and allow comparisons between report numbers to numbers being provided from the field. Utilizing this software makes each piece of equipment trackable, allowing the evolution of installation to be followed.

 

Drone Service Providers

Drone service providers should use solar construction as another opportunity for revenue. Construction monitoring demand has increased, flights can be performed weekly, and getting started is easy with simple flight requirements. Adding a software solution to analyze your image sets allows you to start flying immediately.

Construction monitoring software is a valuable advantage to budget for. The knowledge it provides will reduce the costs and risks that can happen during a project. Easily add it to your next construction project by contacting us HERE or email us directly through info@raptormaps.com