Looking at the bigger picture, the global demand for clean energy is rapidly increasing and producing energy by harnessing the sun is being widely adopted across many nations. To generate energy competitively, solar farms would need near-constant inspections to run efficiently. However, depending on the size of the solar farm, manual inspections can take days to weeks to complete and compile. The DJI Dock can make monitoring and inspecting a breeze by helping solar farms operate at their best whilst significantly increasing the efficiency of the entire process.
If you are curious to know more and wish to implement a well-rounded solar farm inspection system with the DJI Dock, do read on.
The DJI Dock is a drone station that aids automated take-offs, landings and charging of DJI’s most coveted Matrice 30 series drones. It is designed to be functional and run 24/7 even under the harshest environmental conditions between temperatures of -35 to 50 degrees Celsius at any time of the day (or night). What is more? The dock even handles data transferring between drone-to-cloud/data management systems autonomously.
Solar farms need constant care, and their operational efficiency heavily depends on routine inspections and maintenance. The earlier they find, and address panel and equipment damage the steadier and consistent energy output will be. However, solar farms being usually built in remote locations and under harsh climatic conditions, maintenance and inspections become a challenging endeavour. This is exactly where the DJI dock comes to save the day!
The self-contained system enables autonomous drone operations of varying requirements with little to no human intervention. The level of autonomy the drone docks offer, and remote operability make inspections more accessible and efficient.
We all know solar farms cover a large area of land, usually spanning between 1-100 acres. This makes regular inspections a highly labour and time-intensive process. Even a routine inspection session with a team of drone operators requires vehicles, drone pilots, payload operators and a slew of additional and interdependent resources. Expending resources in a solar farm directly translates to carbon emissions. For instance, transportation requirements of inspections, result in the burning of fossil fuel.
The DJI Dock is a one-stop solution to solve resource wastage when it comes to solar farm inspection. The dock removes human intervention from the inspection process through its automation capabilities. Furthermore, it helps early damage detection on panels so that you can replace them and have the farm running at full capacity.
Now let us look at how we can deploy the dock on a solar park.
Selecting an ideal site for deploying the dock is key to getting the most out of your inspection mission. Here are a few things to keep in mind when placing the dock.
Your launch site needs to meet the above requirements for the drone to have a safe and successful mission. On top of that, having the dock in the ideal location will also ensure that you will save time on maintenance, troubleshooting and data retrieval.
Upon placing the dock at a central location, you must proceed with mission planning. This activity is critical for a successful inspection cycle. Additionally, the effectiveness of mission planning directly correlates to the quality and accuracy of the data collected during the inspection.
Mission planning is an intricate process when done manually, however, with the Dock, DJI has simplified the entire operation – all thanks to the DJI Flight Hub! Operators can now design an optimal inspection plan through the software by creating waypoint missions. During mission planning, the technicians should consider irradiance, ground sampling distances (GSD) and components that require frequent inspection.
For optimal insights, you should schedule the drone inspection missions in decent light and at a lower altitude. This results in high-fidelity data capture that yields better overall results. These parameters can also be recorded to repeat as needed by providing the dock with comparable historical data.
Furthermore, the software also allows pilots to set specific flight parameters such as speed, flight height and overlap. This ensures that the drone’s flight path is safe, and it collects reliable data. Once the mission planning is done through DJI Flight Hub Software, the project can head towards the actual data capture or flight phase.
When the drone takes off and begins its automated inspection mission, it starts to progressively capture and collect data. The efficiency of this process heavily depends on the drone’s battery and flight optimisation capabilities. This is where the DJI dock’s versatility comes into play!
The dock’s array of onboard and configurable sensors gives the drone a heightened sense of environmental awareness. They can gauge external environmental factors such as wind speed, temperature, humidity, and precipitation.
For battery optimisation, the dock’s fast charge capabilities can top up the drone’s battery from 20% to 90% in just 20 minutes. What is more? The Matrice 30 series drones especially the 30T have a class-leading performance with a maximum wind resistance of 12m/s and an IP55 rating which further contributes to battery conservation. The hot-swappable batteries offer the drone a maximum flight time of approximately 41 minutes.
During its automated mission, when the craft is mid-flight, operators have the option to alter the flight path and they can assume manual control to carry out ad hoc inspections or spot checks whenever necessary. Once the spot check is complete, upon clicking the resume button on the flight interface, the drone will continue its mission – it is that easy!
The perfect marriage of the drone’s features and the dock’s versatility ensures that the data capture is done in the most energy-efficient and eco-friendly way.
The drone inspects the solar farm and maps its inventory and assets in real time. It also captures data from multiple sensors during flight. Any observations in terms of defects or anomalies are then highlighted and stored.
Once the drone completes its mission and reaches the docking station, the stored metadata is then uploaded to the cloud and automatically wiped from the devices. The docking station, depending on the circumstances, might schedule the upload cycle during its downtime to maximize data capture.
After data upload, the DJI Flight Hub comes to aid once again for yet another crucial function in the inspection process – data analysis. The offloaded data can be synthesised and analysed through the Flight Hub’s dedicated set of tools which helps you measure solar panel efficiency, create heatmaps, and identify potential problems, inefficiencies, and anomalies. Depending on the sensor payloads configured on the drone, you can calculate various heat deltas minimising guesswork and maximising the credibility of data analysis.
Once you collect the data from a particular site, you can even program the dock to perform periodic inspection rounds at the same location throughout a stipulated timeline. With this setup, you can continue to collect data and make data-driven decisions in terms of your solar farm operations.
The standard inspection process concludes with the previous step. However, after a scheduled inspection cycle, you might find the need for additional spot checks. This could be due to the revelation of critical and unexpected anomalies during the previous inspection cycle. Fortunately, DJI Flight Hub can accommodate supplemental flight inspection sessions with historical terrain data that were gathered during previous survey missions.
Once the anomalies have been thoroughly inspected and the problems have been identified, the relevant data can be added to the inspection log. Furthermore, subsequent inspections can be done to assess the environment for shade analysis, ongoing construction progress and security patrols.
To sum it all up, The DJI Dock is a tool that can revolutionise solar farm surveys and inspections. Through its versatile automated capabilities, the dock can drastically increase operational efficiency in terms of inspection processes whilst significantly reducing costs and time. What is even more interesting is that the dock can further reduce solar farms’ carbon footprint and add to their contribution towards building a greener and more sustainable future.
If you are interested in learning more about how the DJI Dock can revolutionise your solar farm operational processes. Get in touch to find out more!