Solar drones are relatively new within the larger drone market and one of the key issues with commercial or defense-oriented drones is their ability to make long trips because of inadequate battery power. This is the reason researchers have been looking towards solar energy as a solution to provide power to drones in flight, as well as using solar energy to provide power for fleets of drones.
The commercial adoption of drones is growing rapidly, and so is the solar industry. Drones provide a practical solution for the inspection of solar sites, from residential to the utility sector, by supporting business efforts to avoid hazardous work by people, thus providing safety and reducing costs for maintenance, inspections, and repairs, as well as maximizing energy production.
Solar drones have been used primarily for mapping, surveillance, remote sensing, and have also been considered as a possibility to provide internet access to rural communities.
They also have proven to be very valuable in preconstruction, commissioning, operations and maintenance. This applies not only to the PV system itself, but it also to surrounding infrastructure, like utility lines, substations, and fencing.
There are a number of issues associated with flying solar drones. One of the main ones is flying for long periods with the risk of the drone losing connection with its controller. Using solar energy to provide power to a drone can help reduce the need for drones to return to their base for charging. The solar energy used to fuel the drone is renewable as well, which means spending less money on drawing electricity from the grid to power the drones. Drones definitely have the potential to fly for longer distances. It is a matter of finding the right combination of solar technology and storage, which means less time on the ground.
The Contributions of Drones
Using drones in the solar industry replaces existing work, but it also opens up new possibilities. Inspections, without drones, are typically completed manually. For utility-scale solar farms, this means either traversing hundreds of acres and conducting the slow and painstaking process of inspecting thousands of panels by hand, or, more commonly, inspecting only a sampling of panels in an effort to identify systemic issues. Because of the difficulties and dangers of the traditional approach to inspections, some have even hired to use planes for inspections.
Inspecting rooftop systems, obviously, involves the danger of sending workers on top of rooftops. With drones, however, inspections will have better data to enable companies to proactively identify more defects, which could lead to increased power production. Such inspections can be easily and safely completed in a very short time, thereby saving costs as well.
Few would argue that the time for renewable resources to become a major contributor to the energy needs around the world is already here. In fact, the need has been here for a long time.
Because of the growth in population, the gross domestic product (GDP)-driven consumption, and Coronavirus Covid-19–all taking their toll—on the world thus leaving our world to face a challenging nation. The challenge is to find a way to create an equitable balance between development and environment, because that is the only way that everyone will have access to enough sustainable energy. And energy is found in resources such as solar, hydro, wind and geothermal. The good news is that such sources never run out.
The issue is how to make it more accessible, which primarily has to do with cost. And here again, as is often the case, drones are the likeliest, of the tools available, to see the challenge met.
Solar energy and wind have emerged as the favorite of environmentalists and new age economists around the world. The reason is that nature produces sun and wind, the cheapest resource.
Not only can solar drones provide access to enough sustainable energy by providing an equitable balance between development and environment, but solar drones are reducing high-risk activities by using these new technologies that increase efficiencies, improve safety, and enhance overall company asset management.
This is a good time to join others in the opportunity to be in the forefront of the solar drone industry. Although it is clear that there has been progress in the last few years, there are currently tremendous opportunities to make great strides in contributing to the betterment of our planet and using drones to aid in a cleaner planet and bring about a brighter future for generations to come.