You call them Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or flying robots, drones are getting popular with time. From being high tech toys for the kids to providing military aid for inspection and rescue operations, drones are used in various fields. However, drones are still in their infancy stage considering their adoption and usage, despite having high versatility. The introduction of drones dates back to World War I when both the US and France worked together in building unmanned aerial combat vehicles. Since then, they have seen significant innovational changes.
Drones have broken barriers that were impenetrable by similar technological innovations. They are providing access to places where it is almost impossible for humans to reach, may it be the core of a volcano or reaching to an unreachable military base. The fields where drones are a buzz are life events photography, wildlife surveillance, and military inspection.
Like in numerous fields, drones have turned out to be highly beneficial for renewable energy. The renewable energy industry takes advantage of the insight they get from above. Inspections and taking images from apt angles make drones to be accurate and precise, with reduced support costs. This technology is becoming common in solar farms where drones are equipped with thermal sensors allowing them to inspect a large scale in a matter of minutes.
Later engineers analyze the images to find anomalies in the panels, which often go unnoticed or take a significant amount of time otherwise. In the solar photovoltaic industry, the benefits are higher than in any other field, due to the cumbersome inspection procedure. The naked eye cannot detect delicate solar cells damaged due to pressure or incorrect installation. Thermography requires images of panels taken from a particular angle, which a manually operated camera does not provide. Drones take care of the problem by capturing images correctly and in a much-reduced period.
Similar applications of this technology are seen in wind power, where the complex infrastructure obstructs in maintenance. The wind turbines are exposed to natural elements which create the need for periodic inspections. Traditional inspection requires ropes and men rappelling down the structure getting to precarious positions, hopefully with the wind not blowing.
The process is slow, labor-intensive and yes, not without risk. On the contrary, drones ease up the business by reducing time and providing quick and remote coverage of turbines. Drones take detailed images of structures, and the inspectors can look for any flaw by being on the ground. Now, with advanced technological innovations, drones develop a 3D model of the machinery, making it possible to look for imperfections in the design.
Undoubtedly, the solar and wind energy industries are the primary beneficiaries of drone technology. Nevertheless, it has gone a league higher, as drones can help on generating electricity by themselves. The wind energy has many potentials, but due to weather inconsistency, it is not harnessed to the fullest. The wind turbines are 80-120 meters high with blades length of about 45 meters. At this height, wind depends on the erratic weather conditions and cannot assure to be efficient round the clock.
Unlike traditional wind turbines, drones are tethered at higher altitudes exposing them to consistent, high-speed winds, making the technology work with much lesser efforts and cost but enhanced efficiency. This technology is referred to as the Airborne Wind Energy System (AWES) and is better than traditional wind turbines in every respect. AWES present low installation cost, and by operating at higher altitudes (500 meters) where the winds are more powerful and less intermittent, they harness the energy with high efficiency.
Times are changing and with the help of technological advancements the scope of harnessing renewable energy is vast.