Drone cameras help cut costs of solar PV maintenance

Council chiefs are relying on drone technology to bring down the cost of solar PV maintenance on buildings around the city of Leeds.

The work was carried out by drone photography company Sky Filming who explained that roof top maintenance videos now make up almost 90% of its work.

Over the last few weeks, Sky Filming was commissioned by energy efficiency specialists, YES Energy Solutions to film a series of solar PV arrays. The panels were situated on top of a number of public buildings owned by Leeds City Council.

As part of the maintenance agreement, the Council was keen to find out if any of the systems had been compromised or damaged which could be affecting their future performance.

Erecting scaffolding or using a crane to carry out the surveys would be expensive and a logistical nightmare. Whereas drones just need a clear day and somewhere to launch.

Having completed a risk assessment, Sky Filming contacted each of the centres to coordinate the flights.

All of their drones are remotely controlled from the ground and can fly for as long as 20 minutes. A member of the team was required to stand back and watch the drone in action to ensure it didn’t fly off into uncharted territory.

Five drone surveys took place over three days providing YES Energy Solutions with detailed footage of each solar PV system.

Jason Malory of Sly Filming explained: “We always get a funny reaction when filming in towns and cities. People always do a double take when they spot the drone in the sky. They must think the aliens have landed! Drones are a great tool to use to film things like solar PV systems. It keeps costs down and you get a great bird’s eye view. Our clients can then inspect the videos and see if there is anything that needs rectifying.”

Duncan McCombie, Chief Executive of YES Energy Solutions added: “Having video footage is a great benefit as we can spend more time analysing each solar PV system to spot any defects rather than relying on a surveyor. Sometimes it is the littlest things which impact solar panels from working to their optimum efficiency.

“It could be shading from a tree that has grown over the last few years, or a small crack in one of the panels. These drone surveys are a great starting point to identify any problems so we can take the right course of action.”

The Drone surveys took place across Leeds at Harry Booth House, John Charles Leisure Centre, John Smeaton Leisure Centre, Leeds Discovery Museum and Wetherby Leisure Centre.