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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.