Renewable Energy

Drones Help Solar Energy Companies Improve Productivity and Shorten Design Cycles

June 19, 2018

In the booming solar industry, efficiency is crucial to your company’s success. Whether you install solar panels, inspect and repair large arrays, or survey land for solar farm prospecting, drone photos, maps, and 3D models can improve productivity and accelerate design cycles.

The latest drone technology — like aerial mapping, thermal imaging, digital terrain modeling, and automated roof measurement — gives you a rich set of data to streamline your workflows and generate real-time insights. High-resolution drone maps far surpass imagery gathered by satellite or manned aircraft in accuracy, accessibility, and cost.

With results like this, it’s no surprise that builders, inspectors, and surveyors are all turning to drones and DroneDeploy. So what are you waiting for? Here are three ways you can start putting drones to work in the solar industry right now:


Survey Property for Solar Farm Prospecting

To gather topographical information for a prospective site of a future solar farm, you traditionally have two options: rely on publicly available data or conduct a new ground surveys, neither of which are ideal for large-scale projects like solar farms.

In the competitive world of solar farm prospecting, it’s challenging to generate purchase bids quickly. Traditional land surveys can take weeks. By surveying land and creating contour maps and digital terrain models with drones, you can cut this process down to a few days. The Result: faster turnaround times and a leg up on your competition.

Having a workflow to get your data out in a timely manner is key to success

- Kingsley Chen, UAV Operations Coordinator, SunPower

Solar Panels

Design and Install Solar Panels Layouts

Drones powered by 3D mapping software like DroneDeploy can reduce the design cycle of solar energy projects by as much as 70%, and increase team productivity along the way.

Surveying a roof usually requires companies to send out surveyors to gather manual tape measurements, meaning they have to clamber across rooftops for about 2 to 3 hours. Drones capture measurements from the safety of the ground. Capable of flying close to any site, drones deliver precise measurements consistently and help surveyors generate accurate 3D models for further inspection.

A preliminary design produced with a drone-generated 3D model by iSolara.

After the drone finishes its flight — which typically takes 15 minutes — surveyors can review all measurements from their desks before producing reports and export the data into design software.

“With Drones, we save weeks on the turnaround time from initial design to deployable design.” —Albert De Sousa, Operation Manager at iSolara

Read the Case Study

Inspect Panels on Solar Farms

Inspect Panels on Solar Farms

Solar panels often overheat, go offline, or require maintenance due to excess dust, scratches or mechanical deficiencies. It can take days — or even weeks — to inspect large solar farms from the ground.

Quickly detect damaged solar panel cells from the sky with Thermal Live Map.
Quickly detect damaged solar panel cells from the sky with Thermal Live Map.

Drones can spot issues from the sky in minutes, and help teams pinpoint problem areas and fast-track repairs. Improve your team’s efficiency on site by conducting drone-based thermal inspections with Thermal Live Map. Generate thermal maps in real time and quickly detect broken photocells faster than ever before, so you can keep your solar operation running at peak efficiency,

As drone use continues to increase in the solar industry — for surveying, design, inspection, and more — so too does the potential that solar energy will become a primary source of all electricity in the United States and the rest of the world.

Where to Learn More

  • Learn more about DroneDeploy’s solar solution on our website.
  • Watch our recent webinar to learn more about using drones to automate roof inspection and measurement.
  • Download our free eBook to learn how to drone-generated maps and 3D models can improve workflows for solar companies.
  • Read our case study with iSolara to see how they implemented drones and reduced their design cycles by 70% in the process.
  • Check out our case study with SunPower to see how they leverage DroneDeploy’s platform to accelerate the land bid process and manage a global team of drone pilots.

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