[PV Robot Front Line] Panel Inspection Robot by Atox

Inspection services based on 'robot management' expertise

2014/06/20 13:05
Kenji Kaneko, Nikkei BP CleanTech Institute
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A solar panel inspection robot "PV module inspection robot (Fig 1)" is being developed by Atox Co Ltd, with the cooperation of Nagaoka University of Technology, the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) and Togami Electric Manufacturing Co Ltd. Atox (Chuo-ku, Tokyo) is engaged in the maintenance of nuclear power plants and provides services related to radioactive materials. The robot is scheduled to be put into practical use within the next fiscal year at the earliest.

Development takes place at the laboratory (Energy Engineering Laboratory) of Noboru Yamada, associate professor at Nagaoka University of Technology.

Lifted up by disk, turned 90 degrees

A PV panel sheet is installed at an angle of 30° in the Yamada laboratory. In late May, I observed a demonstration run of the PV module inspection robot using this panel (Fig 2). The robot weighs 10 kg. It is lifted up and installed on a corner of the panel by a student in charge of the research. The main unit of the robot is 48cm x 39cm in size, but it looks bigger when it is placed on the panel.

When instructions are transmitted from a laptop PC, the crawlers (rubber belts around front/rear drive wheels) turn and the robot moves slowly in a transverse direction. When the robot reaches the edge of the panel, it stops and the main unit is lifted up slightly and turned 90° (Fig 3). Then, it comes down on the panel and starts moving in a longitudinal direction.

Turning technology known in robot contests

The following three targets were set for the development. (1) The robot does not slip when it is put on 30° solar panels. (2) The robot can move across gaps between panels (modules). (3) The computer judges the running route for autonomous travel. The three targets were realized by the prototype unit used for the demonstration run.

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