June 02, 2020
You may have heard about drones for their use in life or death situations such as firefighting or search and rescue operations. You may even have messed around with drones for fun, taking advantage of their ability to fly around and take pictures from interesting angles. In fact, this has given rise to a whole new level of taking selfies, or as they’re known with drone technology, “dronies”. But drones are more than just toys—they’re powerful tools that can help a number of industries work smarter and faster, saving both time and money.
Drones are particularly valuable tools in the energy industry, as their visual and thermal capabilities allow them to perform inspections quickly and efficiently. From inspecting solar panels to detecting methane gas leaks in pipelines, DJI drones can help inspectors perform an accurate and detailed inspection from a safe distance. Instead of wasting time and manpower with manual inspections, check out all of the different sectors of the energy industry that drones can be used to inspect:
Solar panels are a major source of renewable energy all over the world, but like most energy systems, they require frequent inspections to monitor their performance. Over time, solar panels can develop issues that are difficult to detect manually due to the size of the solar farm or if any of the panels are in hard to reach areas. Instead of using a handheld thermal camera to manually inspect each panel, which could take days, a drone equipped with a thermal camera can perform the inspection radically faster while maintaining the accuracy and quality of the data.
Whether you’re monitoring the overall performance of your system or inspecting it for warranty claims, drones can help you quickly and accurately identify any issues with your solar panel system. Thermal cameras can be used to detect issues with the panels like solar cell degradation or failure, using accurate geolocation to help you figure out precisely where the issue is that you need to address. Any factors that reduce the efficiency of your solar panels will waste money and energy, so drones are vital to optimize the output of a solar panel system.
Wind is another important form of renewable energy that requires frequent inspections. A wind turbine can develop cracks, fissures, and other structural issues over time that can affect its efficiency. The blades of a wind turbine can wear out, developing chips and cracks that not only reduce its potential to generate energy, but can even fail completely and cause a dangerous collapse. The generator and gearbox of a wind turbine also need periodic inspections to detect any issues. The earlier you detect issues with a wind turbine, the more time and money you will save.
If you’re relying on manual inspections, there are plenty of issues that can be undetected until it’s too late to resolve them cheaply. A drone with a zoom camera can view parts of the wind turbine inaccessible by humans. Thermal imaging capabilities will be able to detect any other issues with either the wind turbine, the generator, or the gearbox.
Although many of the newer developments in the energy industry have come in the form of renewable energy such as wind turbines or solar power, oil and gas remain one of the main resources of energy.
There’s little that’s more dangerous than a gas leak or an oil spill, so performing thorough and frequent inspections is vital to ensure the safety of human lives. Drones can be used to quickly and safely inspect long pipelines, tanks, and other structures for leakages, damage, and structural issues.One of the most common and most dangerous issues with oil and gas is a methane gas leakage. With payloads like the U10 methane leakage detector on a Matrice series DJI drone, the operator can quickly detect a methane leak before it poses any danger. A DJI drone equipped with a thermal camera can also be used to detect hotspots in critical infrastructure so that operators can address issues before they cause catastrophic failure.
One of the most difficult inspections to perform in the energy industry is a powerline inspection. This is because powerlines span vast distances and are located at extreme heights, making maintenance difficult to achieve. However, powerline inspections are necessary to prevent the grid from failing and cutting off electricity to major areas. Manually, it can be difficult to inspect more than one or two powerlines a day. With DJI drone technology, efficiency is increased tenfold.
Drones with thermal imaging capabilities can help operators inspect vast lengths of powerlines to find any localized hotspots that signify defects in the powerline. The Matrice 210 RTK includes a built-in DRTK to withstand electromagnetic interference when flying close to powerlines and pylons. The zoom camera can also help you inspect tiny details from a safe distance to ensure the safety of the drone.
Nuclear power is one of the most efficient energy sources available today. However, because nuclear energy comes with such a high risk if anything goes wrong, nuclear facilities must be managed with stringent operational standards to ensure safety. Nuclear materials can pose serious safety risks to inspection staff, so remote inspections are the best way to minimize risk all around. Drones can safely carry out nuclear energy inspections to ensure structural integrity and operational safety. With zoom technology, drones can inspect hard to reach areas of nuclear power facilities from a safe distance.
If you’re looking for a DJI drone to help with inspections, the Matrice 300 RTK with the Zenmuse H20 or H20T camera would be perfect for most applications. The AI spot-check recognizes the subject of interest to be identified in future automated missions, allowing you to consistently capture it for a closer look. This can be helpful when inspecting solar panels or pylons that are difficult to frame consistently.
The Matrice 300 RTK also offers a flight time of 55 minutes to help you perform a thorough inspection without having to constantly stop and recharge the drone. This can be crucial when inspecting a vast solar farm with miles of panels to survey. The omnidirectional obstacle avoidance is also great when performing inspections to ensure you the DJI drone doesn’t run into any powerlines or wind turbines and cause a safety hazard.
The Zenmuse H20 camera comes with a 20 MP zoom camera that allows you to get a close up view of potentially dangerous nuclear structures without having to put yourself in harm’s way. It also has a 12 MP wide camera to ensure that everything is in view, whether it’s a massive pylon or a giant solar panel. The Zenmuse H20T also comes with thermal capabilities to help you detect any hotspots in oil pipelines or tanks as well as powerline defects.
The Matrice 200 series is another excellent choice for energy inspections, as it’s built to endure tough environments. The enclosed design makes this DJI drone weather and water resistant, allowing you to perform power inspections regardless of environmental conditions. The Matrice 200 series has a 38 minute flight time is not quite as long as the Matrice 300 RTK, but it’s still long enough to perform most inspections quickly and accurately.
The Zenmuse XT2 camera comes with a special FLIR MSX function that overlays the visual image with the thermal data stream. This can help you pinpoint exactly where the thermal data is coming from geographically so that you can address the issue. The combination of visual and thermal imagery allows you to inspect miles of solar panels much more quickly than you would be able to manually using a handheld thermal device.
The Matrice 210 RTK with the Zenmuse Z30 camera is perfect for wind turbine inspections, as it will remain stable in windy conditions while allowing you to spot millimeter-sized damage along every part of the wind turbine’s propellers. The 30X optical zoom also makes powerline inspections that much safer by allowing you to inspect minute details from 10 meters away.
Because the Matrice 210 RTK allows for multiple payload configuration, you can easily inspect powerlines with both the Zenmuse Z30 and the Zenmuse XT2. This can allow you to take advantage of the zoom capabilities of the Z30 to view powerlines from a safe distance while using the thermal imaging of the Zenmuse XT2 to detect hotspots. The dual gimbal configuration can allow you to inspect one pylon in only 10 to 15 minutes.
If you’re looking for a low-cost option, the Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual is a good fit for energy inspections. It comes with lower resolution than the Matrice 200 or the Matrice 300 RTK, so there will be less detail in the images. However, it will still provide you with a faster, safer, and more accurate inspection than a manual inspection. The Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual is also slim enough that you can carry it anywhere with you. This is especially helpful when inspecting powerlines in high mountains or difficult terrain.
With the Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual, you get the combination of visual and thermal imagery that you need in solar power and oil and gas inspections without the higher cost of the Matrice 300 RTK or the Matrice 200 Series. The Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual also retains the FLIR MSX feature, allowing you to overlay the thermal data with visual images that can help you pinpoint the precise location of defects in powerlines.
The Mavic 2 Enterprise also features a 2X optical zoom and a 3X digital zoom. While this isn’t quite as powerful as the Zenmuse Z30 or the Zenmuse H20, it will allow you to perform close range inspections of powerlines without putting yourself or your DJI drone in harm’s way. It also provides you with GPS timestamping, which records the time and date that images are taken. This makes sure that you can trust the accuracy and timing of your data to quickly address any issues such as solar panel degradation or defects in the powerlines.
Drones can even help you with the planning process of installing new energy systems, as the Phantom 4 RTK can be used to run mapping missions before you install. Whether you’re installing a new solar farm, wind turbine, or oil pipeline, the Phantom 4 RTK can map the terrain and help with the exploration process too. With centimeter-level positioning data, the Phantom 4 RTK will provide you with improved absolute accuracy on data collection.
The Phantom 4 RTK also comes with a mechanical shutter that allows it to take pictures without the risk of rolling shutter blur. A mapping mission can be ruined if all of the images come out blurry, and with the Phantom 4 RTK, you ensure that every mission is a success. Each camera lens goes through a rigorous calibration process to offer unparalleled accuracy in every photo.
Technology is changing the way we do everything, from putting out fires to building critical infrastructure. By taking advantage of DJI drone technology, the energy industry can make their inspections faster and safer, allowing their inspectors to identify potential problems before they have a chance to get out of control. Energy is a precious resource in the world, and we need regular and thorough inspections to ensure as little of it is wasted as possible. Drones provide us with the ability to optimize each sector of the energy industry so that the world can continue run on the power it needs.
As technology continues to develop, not only will we come up with cleaner and more efficient sources of energy, but we will also be able to optimize these resources through drone technology. Inspections will only become faster and safer as more and more companies use drone technology.