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Oct 27, 2020

Inspecting Solar Farms by Using Drone Technology

Meet Robin, our remote pilot manager! We got a chance to spend the day with him inspecting one of our solar farms in Massachusetts.

Drones and aerial data are transforming the solar industry by making the inspection process faster, while delivering more accurate data of a solar farm’s performance. Drones can detect system faults, racking/balance of a system and can even spot issues with vegetation management.

Check out the video to learn more:

Transcript:

Robin Clark:

Hi, my name is Robin Clark. I am the remote pilot manager here at Nexamp.

Robin Clark:

What we do for Nexamp is we use S.U.A.S., or a small unmanned aerial systems, to do aerial photovoltaic inspections for our various ground mount and rooftop mounted or solar rays. I've been a drone pilot for the past six years and I've been flying professionally for the past four. I come from a background of hobby and recreation so I'm building and fabricating my own drones in my basement and racing them during the day, and eventually working my way into the solar industry.

Robin Clark:

When we do aerial photovoltaic inspections, we're looking to see if there are any anomalies at the site and that can be anything from the cellular level, which would be these squares here and the module itself. We can see if one of these is overheating, which would indicate a sign of high resistance. It could be early signs of the degradation of a particular module. That would be something we'd want to take action about or at least keep a close eye on. Though this is kind of really what makes up the bread and butter of our inspections, this is what helps correlate the anomalies that we see, whether that may be an activated bypass diode, cellular defect, or anything like that or what we're really looking for, which are string anomalies or outages. That is what impacts the site production the most.

Robin Clark:

Drones are very useful within the solar industry because it is a huge time saver. We no longer have to employ a team to go out and, by hand with a handheld thermal camera, inspect each panel. The day-to-day life of a drone pilot involves many different tasks. There is both desk work, mission planning and making sure that you have the proper waivers applied for, for airspace clearance, there's file organization after you have acquired a certain dataset. The more physical part of the job is coming to a solar site and knowing that you're managing your time correctly and that you're using the best hours of the day to acquire the best data.

Robin Clark:

Personally, I'm full of a lot of pride working within the renewable energy sector. It feels really good that I'm doing a small part in helping improve the environment and that feels like a true calling for me.


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