Robotics

Scrobby the autonomous solar panel-scrubbing robot

Scrobby the autonomous solar p...
Scrobby is an autonomous robot prototype designed to keep domestic solar panels clean and clear
Scrobby is an autonomous robot prototype designed to keep domestic solar panels clean and clear
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Scrobby is an autonomous robot prototype designed to keep domestic solar panels clean and clear
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Scrobby is an autonomous robot prototype designed to keep domestic solar panels clean and clear
The parts and pieces that go to make up Scrobby
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The parts and pieces that go to make up Scrobby
Scrobby's docking station
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Scrobby's docking station
Two Scrobby protoypes
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Two Scrobby protoypes
Scrobby on a solar panel
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Scrobby on a solar panel
The areas and angles within which Scrobby can operate
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The areas and angles within which Scrobby can operate
Scrobby disassembled to show its plastic components
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Scrobby disassembled to show its plastic components

Solar panels need regular cleaning to ensure they are working at their optimum efficiency, and spraying them with the hose from the ground or relying on a heavy downpour won't necessarily get the job done. Like the windows on your house, they need to be scrubbed and polished for maximum effect. Enter Scrobby, a solar-powered, autonomous robot prototype designed to keep domestic solar panels clean and clear.

Designed to wash and scrub solar panels positioned at angles of up to 75 degrees, just one Scrobby is purported to be able to clean a solar array measuring up to 10 x 20 m (32.5 x 65 ft) – and this is only because its wire tether will only stretch that far.

The wire tether, however, is only for safety so that Scrobby has no chance of falling off the roof and destroying itself or, worse, hitting some unsuspecting passer-by on the head. Scrobby actually takes user commands from an app contained on a smartphone or tablet and also sends details of its schedule to the same app via Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity.

Cleverly, the makers claim that – once installed – Scrobby requires neither external power nor water to run as it collects both from the environment. It has a solar panel to charge its batteries, but the clever part is that it has a collector on its docking station to catch rainwater, meaning that it can be a truly independent and autonomous device.

As such, after installation, the first rainfall sufficient to fill its tank will prompt the unit to start cleaning and also to map its environment to learn the dimensions of the panel on which it is located. After this, Scrobby will then continue to consult its inbuilt schedule to clean the panels regularly, as required.

Changeable through the previously mentioned app, the standard setting means that Scrobby will initiate three total panel cleans per year, which is considered an adequate amount in normal situations. Of course, this can be overridden via the app for particularly dusty areas or in case of unusual atmospheric conditions, such as heavy pollution.

While there are other solar panel-cleaning robots on the market, such as the Eccopia E4 robots employed to clean dusty solar plants in the Israeli desert, these are generally large, industrial-type devices that are meant for commercial installations. Scrobby, on the other hand, is aimed at capturing the domestic market, with the software controlling it being made available for developers to play with.

Scrobby is the subject of a Kickstarter campaign, with early bird backers able to put their hands up for a pre-production Scrobby assembly kit for €269 (US$348) and an estimated delivery date of February 2015 if all goes to plan. The creators also hope to have a retail starter kit out by May 2015 with a price of €2,390 (US$3,092) for 10 units. Scrobby is set to be available in just one color – white – so as to reduce heat stress on the electronic components inside and make the unit last longer.

The short video below shows Scrobby in action.

Source: Scrobby

10 comments
ramriot
A really good idea, a couple of questions though:- 1) Do I need a Scrobby for each panel (there be gaps between mine)? 2) Do I need to buy the Scrobby Mini to clean scrobby's panel, and the Scrobby Micro to clean Scrobby Mini's panel etc, down to ther Scrobby nanobot to pick up individual dust grains and carry them off to the edge.
myale
The video shows the cleaner moving over two panels so it looks like it move between all the panels in the scope of its tether, if the ap is not too large. I assume you would need to replace the battery and or the cleaning bits- i.e. brushes and its own solar panel on a fairly regualr basis - yearly to a couple of years at a guess. If it using rainwater I imagine they will need to add something into to the tank to control biofilm growth else the jets etc would eventually become clogged with algae etc.
Aruvqan Myers
Cute idea, though I have always asserted that you really should not roof mount solar panels if there is any other option because to clean the damned things requires climbing onto the roof ... though in an arid area like the Central Valley of California or Ajo Arizona, there is not sufficient rainfall to manage supporting the little dude.
Sirmike
Living in drought ridden southern California it would be great but what is this "rain' stuff they talk about?
Bob Flint
Not an efficient form, even though it uses rain water (sunny climes, & rain not a common balance). Cable guides can be prone to failure, and affected by wind. I understand it is for domestic use, but better solutions do already exist; http://www.gizmag.com/ecoppia-e4-ketura-sun/31428/ Think perhaps using thermal expansion during the day to store & compress air, release a lateral rotating brush, with gravity assist to slide down at night, rise up the next day. Or maybe membrane type skin that reacts to the morning sun similar to flower petals, in doing so they daily wipe the surface as they expand, close up and keep the outer surface clean during the night.
Ursula
What happens when you have 16 panels? Can one fill the water reservoire if your area hardly ever gets rain? How does its own solar panel need to be installed? That could be rather involved a process.
nutcase
Solar panel cleaning is already a thriving and lucrative service industry. The customer base is now large and the benefits of regular servicing are easy to demonstrate. Business setup costs are small and this type of machine is a game-changer if it can be developed further.
Chettan Suresh
Can this be used for long series of panels or how much area can one scrobby service.How often we may have to service scrubby? How do we contact the manufacturer?
Ozuzi
A soft broom and a hose every few months, big deal. I also used to clean mine when I changed them between my winter angle and my summer angle, when I lived on the Tropic of Capricorn. Aruvqan I mounted mine on the roof of the verandah for the shade value, it hits 45 degrees there.
Julie Myers
I have some solar panels on my home, but recently I was told that they need to be cleaned to be at their most efficient. I was not aware of this, so I really need to start working on this. I would really like to have a robot like this that can get them cleaned quickly and clans as often as I need. However, I am not sure if I can get one of those for myself, so it might be better to just find a cleaning service that can come and do it for me. Maybe in the future I can look into an automatic washing robot like this!