Traditionally, an outdoor inspection of Photovoltaic (PV) plants in operations is being done by infrared imaging for ages. The main challenge with this technology is its low accuracy and slow operation. Currently, infrared imaging is the standard technology used in the drone-based inspection of PV panels but the accuracy is low and the technology can be used in very specific weather conditions. Also, infrared thermography imaging can only detect faults when serious energy losses have already happened and fail in preventive maintenances.
Even though luminescence and short wave infrared (SWIR) sensors are being used to get a detailed inspection of PV panels, it involves a very complex process of dismantling of the PV system and also requires an external power supply to be inspected in low lighting conditions at night-time.
Upteko along with Z-laser and First-Light has developed an innovative drone-based solution for fast and accurate inspection of photovoltaic (PV) plants in operation called LIPI (Laser Induced Photoluminescence Imaging). The technology is built on a combination of a line laser and a short-wave infrared (SWIR) camera, where the latter is sensitive to where silicon reemits the laser light. By scanning with the laser and SWIR camera over the PV panels high-resolution images can be obtained showing microcracks and faults even before they become critical to energy production.
The LIPI is completely contactless since the laser carried by the drone injects the luminescence into the solar cells which are then captured by the SWIR camera being sensitive to the spectral region where the solar cells are emitting light. Inspection of PV modules with luminescence imaging is the future and a drone-based solution will bring a revolutionary change to the PV industry.
Key features of LIPI payload
The payload is designed as low as 500 gm in weight which enables it to be installed in any drone giving it a much longer flight time.
Fitted with a SWIR camera from First-Light capable of capturing full frame(512x640) image at 600 frames per second and an eye safe 2W 808nm line laser giving high resolution images helps in detailed fault diagnostics enabling preventive maintenance.
A high precision GPS is integrated also in the LIPI unit making it a fully stand-alone unit that needs no meta-data from the drones flight controller and can thereby be mounted on any drone.
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This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 876557
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