Time is money. The more time spent working on something like drone inspection, the more expensive that task becomes. There are also only so many hours in the day. The longer a specific task (drone inspection) takes to complete, the more days spent working on that task before it is successfully completed.
Over the last 12 months Raptor Maps has helped UAV (drone) pilots inspect more than 500 solar PV sites. For each inspection, the goal was to:
- Capture the highest quality data (imagery).
- Perform the inspection in the least amount of time so the pilot can move on to the next scheduled solar farm inspection that day/week.
- Deliver a final report to the client that includes all identified anomalies with locations and images of each anomaly.
Because Raptor Maps’ focus is high-quality data and to cover as much ground in a single flight as possible, the company has come to the conclusion that a solar farm inspection should not be performed as a thermal mapping mission.
This is because thermal maps (orthomosaics) require extremely large amounts of data to be collected — hundreds of thousands of images in most cases — which takes a long time and is often low quality. Additionally, the software programs used to create thermal maps do not have a 100% success rate. On average, the software will fail to produce a usable thermal map 20 to 30% of the time. Why waste time and money on something that is not a quality product and may not even have a successful end-result?
To reduce inspection flight times and collect the highest quality imagery, drone operators should adjust their sidelap (lateral overlap) to 20% and abandon the idea of creating a thermal map. Drone PV inspection time can be reduced by 75% and higher quality reports and deliverables with both radiometric thermal and high-definition visual spectrum imagery can be produced.
The goal of every aerial PV system inspection is to identify the condition of the system and potential issues. Thermal maps aren’t needed to correctly identify and accurately localize the PV system anomalies affecting performance. Instead of relying on an low-quality thermal map to find anomalies, image-based post-processing software solutions like Raptor Maps can be used. These software solutions process this smaller, faster-to-collect dataset (imagery) and identify, classify and localize all solar farm anomalies. Additionally this dataset will always create a valuable and usable final deliverable 100% of the time.
By reducing your sidelap down to 20%, you can increase the amount of PV plant you are able to inspect by 400%. You can now inspect an entire solar farm in one day that previously took four days. Four nearby solar PV systems can be inspected in one day instead of four days. This small adjustment to your solar farm inspection flight plan will greatly increase your ROI.
For those interested in learning more about solar project inspection, contact Raptor Maps at firstname.lastname@example.org.