FAQ

How do I schedule an inspection with Infrared Aerial?

Contact Ryan to discuss your inspection and/or construction monitoring needs.

What are the objectives of an aerial thermography inspection?

  • Capture the highest quality data (thermal and visual images).
  • Perform the inspection in the least amount of time.
  • Deliver a final report to the client that includes all identified anomalies detailing locations and images of each anomaly.

How accurate are aerial thermography inspections of solar plants?

  • In comparison to manual tests, aerial inspections not only identify dc performance issues with a higher degree of accuracy (and less labor), but also allow operators to characterize an entire plant under consistent operating conditions.
  • Since aerial surveys can identify 100% of the faults at a given site, operators can use these data to classify all fault mechanisms at that site and potentially identify systemic or serial issues.

How detailed are the aerial inspection images of solar plants?

  • Our comprehensive aerial inspections are able to accurately identify thermal anomalies as small as an overheated junction box, as well as very granular issues such as delamination and cracked modules.

Can aerial inspections be used for warranty claims?

  • Yes.
  • Warranty inspections typically require a thorough review of every module within a PV system. Our comprehensive aerial inspections quickly and accurately identify warrantable issues and deliver a detailed, actionable report that can be used to submit a warranty claim.

How is artificial intelligence used in aerial inspections?

  • Artificial intelligence (AI) goes hand-in-hand with aerial inspection services because each inspection generates vast amounts of imaging data. AI enhances the precision of fault identifications and classifications through pattern recognition and machine learning software. The larger the data bank, the more AI can improve fault classifications.

How will infrare aerial inspections provide actionable data?

  • Aerial thermal inspection results provide technicians with data that are both granular and highly actionable. Aerial IR imagery tells technicians exactly where to locate and remedy dc performance problems within an array. Because string-level failures are relatively consistent throughout the life of a system and account for the majority of the expected capacity losses, technicians can quickly solve these problems and increase system production.

Do your solar inspections comply with the International Electrotechnical Commission standards?

Yes. Our comprehensive aerial solar inspections comply with the IEC TS 62446-3 thermography standards set by the International Electrotechnical Commission, the world’s leading organization that prepares and publishes International Standards for all electrical, electronic and related technologies.  

What type of PV faults are typically discovered during an aerial thermography inspection?

Based on the findings of aerial thermography inspections of 12.9 million solar modules across 18 countries, below are the types of PV faults discovered by percentage.

  • Tracker 22.8%
  • String 18% 
  • Inverter 12.4%
  • Combiner 10%
  • Cell 6%
  • Cell Multi 5.5%
  • Shadowing 5.6%
  • Diode 4.9%
  • Row 4.7%
  • Soiling 4.3%
  • Module 4.3%

How will Infrared Aerial inspections increase solar power production and reliability?

A pilot can fly a drone equipped with IR sensors over the facility to quickly detect hot spots on PV panels, indicating subpar performance. An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) mounted with an infrared camera allows plant operators to see, capture and log detailed thermal images of assets that need maintenance, catching them before something goes wrong. This means servicing issues are proactively identified and problem units are brought back to full capacity faster, benefitting both plant reliability and output.

How do aerial thermography inspections reduce hazardous risk for employees?

  • When operators use aerial inspections in lieu of manual dc inspections, technicians spend less time accessing combiner boxes and inverters. This effectively reduces worker exposure to electrical hazards. Technicians are exposed to electrical shock hazards whenever they open a combiner box or inverter; in large-scale systems deployed with central inverters, technicians are also potentially exposed to dc arc-flash hazards.
  • With the results of a professional drone inspection that combines thermal and RGB imaging data, a PV testing technician can more efficiently execute manual electrical testing on only the impaired PV panels. 
  • In just one solar farm inspection, one large scale Solar EPC/O&M services provider saved 778 manhours, 97% of which were hazardous.

Are aerial thermography inspections of solar plants safer than manual inspections?

  • Yes.
  • In the long term, the more effective and sustainable safety practice is to simply eliminate unnecessary manual inspection activities wherever possible. Viewed from this perspective, aerial inspections provide operators and organizations with an opportunity to implement a higher level of hazard control in accordance with OSHA’s hierarchy of controls methodology. Though workers may still need to open combiners, disconnects or inverters to conduct periodic visual and IR inspections, the hazards associated with these visual inspections are less severe than the hazards associated with physically accessing busbars and fuse holders to perform electrical characterization tests.

Are aerial thermography inspections of solar plants faster than manual inspections?

  • Yes.
  • Aerial infrared thermography inspections have a typical duration (net flight time) ranging from just a few minutes to up to 1 hour, depending on the size of the PV plant. Defects like disconnected strings, substrings, shunted cells, faulty soldering and cell fracture can be visualized and distinguished.
  • Utilizing thermographic UAVs is cost-effective and a much less time-consuming option for fault diagnosis of large-scale PV plants.

Do aerial thermography inspections of solar plants require plant downtime?

  • No.
  • Manual inspections of solar plants can require scheduled downtime. In the case of an aerial inspection, the drone is able to perform the inspection without the need to shut down the solar plant.
  • One way that output is affected is through necessary plant downtime. The drone inspections reduce the costly consequences of shutting plants down when an isolated issue occurs. Incidents such as blown overhead fuses in a transmission line can be inspected by drones while keeping the plant running.

Will aerial thermography inspections replace manual inspections of solar plants?

  • Aerial inspections can largely replace manual dc measurements as part of a preventative maintenance scope of work. Infrared inspections can detect any fault mode that causes a significant decrease in module output.
  • Site operators have often relied on manual field tests—including I-V curve traces and thermal images captured with handheld infrared (IR) cameras—to locate defects within the array. Since these tests are labor intensive and costly, operators generally inspect only 10%– 25% of the modules per site annually. These combined factors mean that PV systems can incur undetected phantom losses, which reduce energy yield and economic performance.  
  • In the long term, the more effective and sustainable safety practice is to simply eliminate unnecessary manual inspection activities wherever possible.
  • With the results of a professional drone inspection that combines thermal and RGB imaging data, a PV testing technician can more efficiently execute manual electrical testing on only the impaired PV panels that are identified and classified by the drone inspection.

How will aerial themography inspections lower my solar O&M costs?

  • Lower inspection costs. 
  • Shorter inspection times. 
  • Improve preventative maintenance by reducing losses that accrue over time.
  • Enable predictive maintenance:
    • Prevent problems from developing
    • Reduce losses due to unscheduled downtime
    • Streamline inventory management.
  • Aerial inspections cover 100% of the solar plant.  Manual inspections, due to their labor-intensive nature and high cost, typically only cover 10-25% of the solar plant.

Are drones having a positive effect on climate change and air quality?

  • Yes.
  • According to PlanetWatch, switching to renewable energy is critical for fighting climate change. Drones provide many benefits to renewable energy companies and, as a result, are lowering the cost of renewable energy. Drones are becoming an excellent partner in the fight to study climate change, slow it down, and mitigate its impacts.

What additional actions can I take to improve climate change and air quality?

  • Infrared Aerial donates 5% of the revenue from every inspection to the Environmental Defense Fund, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the natural systems on which all life depends.  By hiring Infrared Aerial for your next solar inspection, you are taking action to improve our climate and air quality.