[PV Robot Front Line] Autonomous Unmanned Helicopter for Inspections

Discovers hot spots from above for efficient inspection

2014/07/13 18:59
Shinichi Kato, Nikkei BP CleanTech Institute
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The Chubu Electrical Safety Inspection Association has been validating an inspection system that incorporates an autonomous flight-type compact unmanned helicopter for introduction to mega (large-scale) solar power plants for improvement of electrical safety (Fig. 1 & 2). According to the association, the system will be put into practice by the end of 2014.

The purpose of the introduction of the compact unmanned helicopter is to photograph from above numerous solar panels installed over a wide area and discover the possibility of problems occurring with the panels by analyzing the aerial photographs. With the conventional method, in which inspectors walked around to check solar panels one by one, huge amounts of time and energy are taken up when the number of panels is large.

Total inspections of panels are streamlined by the use of compact unmanned helicopters. Panels that may have problems can be identified in a short time if the images of many solar panels are analyzed.

Electrically operated compact unmanned helicopters are widely used to take aerial photos, spray agricultural chemicals and for other purposes. The Chubu Electrical Safety Inspection Association, however, set three major requirements for the performance of the unmanned helicopter used in developing the mega solar plant inspection system.

The requirements are: (1) the helicopter flies autonomously from takeoff to landing, based on the prior program setting, without remote control by radio control, etc, (2) the helicopter can photograph the solar panels from above and (3) one power plant can be inspected without replacing the helicopter battery.

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