Solar technology takes flight with drones

April 14, 2017

View from a drone: one of the newest advances in solar technologyAs the cost of photovoltaic (PV) panels continues to drop, solar companies are driving innovation in solar technology to find additional savings—and further compete with fossil fuel power. One of these advances is the use of surveillance drones. According to a recent article in The Guardian, this high-flying technology is increasingly being added to many solar project design toolkits.

From the article:

[Drones can enable a company to] survey a wide region and help design a solar power farm that can fit more solar panels on a piece of land, more quickly and for lower costs than it previously could.

Commercial solar installation design software is the other key component of this renewable energy technology. Detailed photographs from drones are fed into programs with complex algorithms that evaluate hundreds of factors—elements that may otherwise be missed by human engineers. 

According to the article, other benefits of solar power are realized through the more efficient design of commercial solar panel arrays. Better designs mean less land is needed to construct large commercial solar installations.

Also from the article:

It minimizes environmental impact, an issue that can be controversial for large projects built for utilities because they tend to spread across hundreds of acres of land in remote regions.

Drones can also play an important role after a commercial solar operation is up and running. Equipped with infrared cameras, drones can be used to monitor existing solar panels and identify units that are no longer producing electricity. 

The outlook for commercial solar power continues to be positive. According to The Guardian, solar power plants currently provide 2.4% of electricity generation in the U.S.—up from less than 1% in 2016. Investing in new renewable energy technology is seen by many in the solar industry as an important step in realizing such predictions and eventually replacing fossil fuels.


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