Drones Plus AI Making Headway as Solar Asset Management Technology

Utility-scale solar asset management took a leap forward last week with the announcement that Enel Green Power North America (EGPNA) is teaming up with Raptor Maps, a company that uses drones and machine-to-machine learning / artificial intelligence (AI). The companies hope that the solution will cut solar operations and maintenance (O&M) costs.

With the partnership, the companies are aiming to solve the data post-processing bottleneck, aka data fatigue, by allowing the drone to process more information on site instead of sending it back to a central operator for processing.

Related: How Drones Will Transform Wind Turbine Inspections

The project will kick off by implementing Raptor Solar across all of EGPNA’s solar assets. The drone and camera technology combined with Raptor Maps’ AI software means that the team will be able to simultaneously capture both infrared (thermal) and high-resolution (color) imagery of solar assets, perform post-processing at the source of the data, and deliver real-time analytics to assess the condition of the plant.

This information will be transmitted in real time to EGPNA’s maintenance management system that will create and deliver a work order with actionable items to be evaluated by the site technician, before the drone even lands, which the company said would streamline the process from days to hours.  

By the end of 2018, EGPNA said it expects to have 30 field workers on how to use the technology.

Related: Drones Across Spain Are Spotting Dodgy Solar Panels and Wind Turbines

EGPNA currently has around 100 operating renewable energy plants in North America across 24 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. In all, that includes capacity of 4.3 GW of hydropower, wind, geothermal and solar assets. The partnership with Raptor will start with solar assets but the company said once the technology is fully realized, it could be rolled out to other assets under management.

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