Drones

New system will use drones to clean hard-to-reach solar panels

New system will use drones to ...
A rendering of one of the drones in panel-spraying action
A rendering of one of the drones in panel-spraying action
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A rendering of one of the drones in panel-spraying action
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A rendering of one of the drones in panel-spraying action

Solar panels continuously accumulate dust, dirt and other debris, plus they're often located atop tall buildings or in remote areas – this means that they need to be cleaned, but doing so is difficult. That's why a drone-based setup is now being developed to do the job.

The "drone-in-a-box"-type system is being created via a collaboration between Israeli solar farm services company Solar Drone and Israeli drone manufacturer Airobotics.

It will incorporate a quadcopter which is housed inside a weatherproof docking station located near the solar panels in question. At regular intervals, two doors on top of the station will slide open, the drone will rise up out of it on a powered platform, and the aircraft will then take off and fly up to the panels.

Utilizing technology such as LiDAR sensors and mapping cameras, the drone will subsequently align itself above each panel, then spray it with cleaning fluid before moving on to the next one. Once the cleaning task is complete, the aircraft will land back on the docking station and be lowered into it. If necessary, a robotic system will then replace its battery with one that's freshly charged, and replace its cleaning fluid tank with one that's full.

According to Solar Drone, the system should be 25 percent less costly than utilizing other panel-cleaning techniques. And unlike at least one previously proposed drone-based setup, the aircraft won't actually touch the panels, so there's little chance of it damaging them.

There's presently no word on when the system may enter use. In the meantime, you can see a demo in the video below.

Solar Drone & Airobotics

Sources: Solar Drone, Airobotics

11 comments
11 comments
Trylon
I sure hope their technology is better than their website, which is full of misspellings and broken links.
Sciencie
I also hope this activity is included in the inefficiency calculations like the de icing of the wind farm blades.
MQ
Window washers and Boom truck operators seem to have this problem solved already...

Dream on folks, calling anything Remote and showing a toy multicopter doing the job... (no long range operations for that aircraft...) next time a long pole with squeegee may work. Lol...
Don Rathburn
Uh, how much liquid cleaner do you think that little drone could carry per sortie ? If the solar panel farm covered thousands of square meters you would probably need a large number of drones flying 24/7 to even come close to keeping the panels clean. I can't even imagine how expensive such a system would be.
Primecordial
Snow cover is still the single most energy-blocking problem in northern climates. A labour-saving snow removal process would be the ticket.
BlueOak
Cool, if it can be effective without physically having to wipe the panels.

When inspecting our roof gutters with our drone to determine whether they need cleaning, I’ve noticed fresh, lighter leaves get blown out of the gutter by the drone wind. Would be nice if the drone could do more.
Username
What exactly is their cleaning fluid?
freddotu
If one considers the cost saving involved in having home solar panels, there's little margin for spending money to have someone else clean them. My local PV installer charges half as much as I save in utility cost. As others have said, a long pole with a brush, water fed through the handle, saves the big bucks.
windykites
How many panels per tankful? How about using a rotating brush? The downdraft will then blow it away.
mikewax
how bout a rainbird-type sprinkler that runs on a track. QED
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