Aerial thermal solar panel inspection

Thermal imaging technology is what we use to inspect solar panels. With our FLIR (Forward Looking Infrared) thermal drone we can detect hot spots, manufacturing defects, cracks, faulty inter-connectors, defective bypass diodes and temporary shadowing.

Using a thermal drone is a non-destructive and non-invasive method to locate abnormal spots on solar panels. We can thermal imaging to inspect the solar panels under load, so no shutdown is required. UAV Thermal imaging cameras will show accurate temperature differences between cells or within a single cell and this allows us to identify faults at an early stage.

With aerial thermal drones, we can easily locate cluster defects by looking for discoloured parts on the screen which shows us abnormal power spots (cluster defects that may cause a 33 percent power reduction in a solar panel).
Faulty solar panels have a noticeable temperature signature than panels operating properly. These temperatures can vary from 30° to well above 65° on a single solar panel – outside the operating temperature. Panels that are not operating at peak performance due to issues with inverters, defective bypass diodes, combiners or module problems become visible in seconds with thermal imaging.

SOLAR PANEL thermal survey faults found faulty panels 0
Most problems will show as a hot spot or cold spot although defective bypass diodes display as a ‘patchwork’ pattern. Temperature variation was 58.2° as opposed to 39.5° for a cooler part of the solar panel.

Inspecting solar panels

As the country strives for renewable energy sources, solar power has become cheaper and accessible for businesses and domestic use across the UK. Many businesses are improving their energy efficiency with solar panel installations.

Because the solar market is becoming so accessible, so too are services around domestic and industrial solar operations, including inspection and maintenance.
Solar panels and their related components should be inspected a few times every year to ensure there is no debris, dirt or damage. A combination of weather, environment and random instances can lead to corrosion, general deterioration and inefficiency. Dust, dirt, bird droppings, chips and cracks can all add up to big losses in the long term.

Proactive regular inspections are the way to go, along with a routine of cleaning and maintenance to ensure there are no over-heating potential fire hazards, and also ensuring panels are providing the highest output possible.
For larger solar farms, it’s best to carry out regular checks and build a catalogue of orthomosaic maps. These will provide a benchmark to compare against over the long term.

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Split view on the Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced. IR and Visible light highlights the faulty solar panels clearly.

Solar panel inspections can be very time consuming, especially on large installations such as a solar farm. There are numerous reasons other than just the cost of choosing a drone operator with a FLIR thermal drone to inspect solar panels.

Thermal drone technology can cut a time-intensive job requiring multiple technicians to just a single drone operator in a few hours, drastically reducing inspection times with the benefit of an eye in the sky.
Of course, it isn’t just about being faster and cheaper, the quality of data along with orthomosaic maps can help inspection crews set benchmarks and discover anomalies. The sooner an issue is identified, the sooner it can be rectified and the shorter the amount of time capacity is limited.

Safety is another aspect of using drones with solar panels installed at height. Modern thermal FLIR drones can easily identify faults on solar panels from 150 feet due to better quality FLIR cameras and higher resolutions. We don’t need to be close to your solar panels to inspect them, and this removes the hazards of having somebody climb onto roofs with thermal cameras.

Visible RGB light and IR light on inspection

We use both visible light and infrared to detect anomalies and faults with solar panels, and we capture high-resolution images alongside thermal images and these are sent as electronic deliverables shortly after the aerial drone thermal inspection.

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