Inspecting solar farms with the DJI M300 RTK

May 11, 2023
Inspecting solar farms with the DJI M300 RTK

Solar panel inspection with drones provide a practical solution for the inspection of solar sites, from residential to utility-scale. Drones such as the DJI M300 RTK support business efforts to avoid hazardous man-hours; reduce costs for maintenance, inspections, and repairs; and maximize energy production. Valuable use cases have been proven across pre-construction, commissioning, and operations & maintenance for not only the PV system itself, but also for surrounding infrastructure like utility lines, substations, and fencing.

Last year, Measure, a company based in the US, conducted a study to compare the time, costs, and results of solar panel inspection with drones to relevant manual inspection scenarios across four sites.

SITE 1: 100% IR drone inspection for maintenance of 74MW in Sunrall, MS; compared to clamp testing with 20% IV curve tracing testing

SITE 2: 100% IR drone inspection for maintenance of 30MW in Spargue, CT; compared to Voc/Isc testing at the combiner box with visual inspection

SITE 3: 100% IR drone inspection for commissioning of 21MW in Rincon, GA; compared to 100% hand-held IR scanning with 15% IV curve tracing testing

SITE 4: 100% IR drone inspection for commissioning of 12.5MW in Herald, CA; compared to 100% IV curve tracing testing

Comparing drone inspection time to relevant manual inspections across the 4 sites, they recorded an increase in inspection efficiency of 97%.

 Site 1Site 2Site 3Site 4
Drone Inspection Time24 Hrs6 Hrs7 Hrs4 Hrs
Manual Inspection Time778 Hrs293 Hrs208 Hrs195 Hrs
Hazardous Manhours Avoided754 Hrs287 Hrs201 Hrs191 Hrs
Increased Efficiency97%98%97%98%
Net Cost Saving$68,399$25,485$17,063$19,552

The above figures speak volumes about how employing drones for solar farms result in not only cost savings, but avoids hazardous man-hours, and is efficient in terms of time, labour, and data.

At Aero Smart, we work with engineers across a spectrum of industries to explore how drones can positively impact facility inspection. Based on the industry, we map the technology required, the kind of data that is useful to companies, and also suggest real times changes to inspection methodologies.

As part of the UAE Energy Strategy 2050, there are a number of solar farms in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the most notable being the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park with a planned output of 5,000 MW by 2030. The others are the Shams Solar Power Station, and a 10MW Solar PV power plant at Masdar City.