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Colaborar con empresas de drones vs poseer drones propios para la inspección de plantas fotovoltaicas

When it comes to considering whether or not to purchase equipment for the inspection of photovoltaic plants, there are several options depending on the type of inspection we want to perform, because this will also depend on the type of drone we are going to use and several other factors to consider.

Whether you are an O&M manager looking to deploy drones to optimise the maintenance of your customers' solar assets, a solar plant owner or a solar energy company , this article will help you determine the best choice between owning drones or not, as the case may be, for the inspection of PV plants.

And of course, if you are considering getting into the field of photovoltaic inspections using drones, we have other posts on the main anomalies that occur at a solar plant and also on everything you need to know before carrying out a photovoltaic inspection with drones that might be of interest to you. 

Either way, we also have an Academy that will give you all the information you need to get started.

Now we are ready to know what our options are in terms of whether or not to purchase the equipment for a photovoltaic inspection.

These are our options:

  • Purchase the necessary equipment according to the type of inspection we want to carry out.

     

Photovoltaic inspection with thermal imaging and RGB imaging.

Image 1. Photovoltaic inspection with thermal images and RGB images.

In this case, it is important to bear in mind that if we decide to own drones for inspections, we must first have a licence to fly them and be aware of the limitations according to state regulations .

We should also knowing the guide lines on how to do a PV inspection depending on what we want to offer to the client and the type of project we are going to work with. 

Below are two images of two different projects, the PV inspection of an industrial roof and the PV inspection on the ground.

Photovoltaic inspection on an industrial rooftop

Figure 2. Photovoltaic inspection on an industrial rooftop

Photovoltaic survey over an area of land.

Image 3. Photovoltaic survey on an expanse of land.

The characteristics of the drone(s) and camera(s) to be purchased depend on the above.

If the option is to own drones, and once you know what type of inspection you want to perform, it will be important:

- Be informed beforehand and carry out all the necessary legal aspects, such as registrations and certifications required in your country.

- Have the knowledge of everything necessary for the task at hand, as a photovoltaic inspection is not just about knowing how to fly a drone.

- And very importantly, know and comply with the national regulations to avoid any kind of penalty or causing an accident.

In the Academy section of our website we offer all the necessary training to start in the world of solar inspections and enter a sector that has experienced great growth in recent years and in which the drone has become an almost indispensable tool for the inspection of photovoltaic plants.

Inspection and training carried out in the Canary Islands.

Inspection and training carried out in the Canary Islands.

It is important to pay attention to this: Just by owning drones you are not qualified to fly, you need to be trained as a pilot.

Even recreational drones have their limitations and regulations. 

To name just a few of the limitations to get an idea and in the case of European regulations, the drone cannot exceed 250 grams in weight, it must be flown at least 8 kilometres away from any airport/aerodrome, the drone must always be within visual range, among other limitations, and in any case it must be certified.

DJI 2 Mini Drone

Image 5. DJI 2 Mini Drone (under 250 grams)

In thecase of inspections of photovoltaic plants, the characteristics of the drone are usually higher and the regulations vary depending on the equipment and type of flight.

DJI M300 Drone

Image 6. DJI M300 Drone

It is important to find out about UAS regulation in your country and adhere to the rules.

  • Create collaborations with drone companies and link companies together.

Figure 7. Win-win.

This option is a win-win teamwork. 

This involves contacting drone companies to which we can explain the guidelines to be followed in order to carry out this type of inspection if the company is not yet active in this sector.

They do the flying and imaging while we take care of the anomaly analysis, reporting and other results, as well as communication with the client. 

In this way we have not made any investment a priori but we have all gained.

One of the advantages of this option is that the personnel working in the drone companies have all the equipment, knowledge about the equipment, are trained and certified to fly, and are familiar with the national regulations for flying drones in the country where they are located.

This means that once we contact this company and they are willing to work with us, the inspection is carried out as soon as it has been agreed with the plant manager.

  • Renting equipment for a fixed period of time

Drone at checkpoint

Image 8. Drone at checkpoint

The third option is to rent the equipment we need to carry out the inspection, in this way only the investment necessary for the given time is made, taking into account the time for which the equipment is rented and the insurance costs.

The limitation of this option, as well as the option to buy them, is of course that you must be trained as a pilot and informed about all aspects of flying a drone professionally.

Have the knowledge about drones and about the national regulations for flying drones (it is advisable to soak yourself in the subject and know all the necessary guidelines of the national regulations for flying drones in your country before flying, so you will avoid possible sanctions and/or accidents that could occur if we do not know all the regulations and safety measures), have the certification that authorises us to carry out the flight and of course the knowledge of all the flight planning with the dedicated software.

And to conclude, whichever option best suits your needs, you can find much more information on our website blog to find out what to expect from a photovoltaic inspection or to learn on your own, as well as in our Academy where you can train with professionals.