Drones, Robots, Hexacopter: Novel Technologies to Clean Solar Panels

Highlights :

  • Israeli companies create drones that clean solar panels in all weather conditions and save costs upto 25 per cent.
  • A Belgian firm has come up with a ‘Helios’ system that has a hexacopter and a robot that work automatically and can access places that are difficult to reach.
Drones, Robots, Hexacopter: Novel Technologies to Clean Solar Panels The Art Robotics hexacopter

One of the abiding trends in renewable energies is the push to deliver more for less. That means, when it comes to solar for instance, all supporting services and products like solar cleaning, or even trackers, need to track the drop in costs or increasing efficiencies of panels. Cleaning of panels, a key part of the O&M (operations and maintainance) on any large solar plant, has been a focus area for many firms, thanks to the opportunity to target both a large market and a real need. The need being the requirement to conserve water, or even use less labour in some markets. That means an opportunity for multiple startups to make an impact.

Two new technologies – one emanating from Israel and other from Belgium – are making a buzz in the industry now.

Solar Drone, an Israel based solar farm service provider, and Israeli drone manufacturer Airobotics have said that they have developed drones that can provide cleaning services to solar panels leaving them completely undamaged. This was created back in December. They hold that the cleaning cost of solar panels can be reduced by at least 25 per cent.


An Airobotics Drone



The Art Robotics Hexacopter

The companies have declared on their website that their new drone model is completely autonomous. The two companies say that drones are capable of removing dust and sand deposition on the solar panels; the service can be done on any surface and in all weather conditions.

Then ART Robotics – a Belgian startup – has come up with Helios which is a sophisticated system that consists of a flying hexacopter and a robot. The job of the two components is different.

ART Robotics says, “Helios is an automated cleaning service for solar panels. It’s a fully autonomous system that can access difficult-to-reach places and eliminates dangerous and costly work.”

In this system, the hexacopter flies on top of the solar panels while carrying the robot. The computer vision embedded in the hexacopter helps it to identify the location of the solar panel and the robot is accordingly released. The robot then acts like a human cleaner for all practical purposes. It uses a rotating brush and a vacuum and cleans up all solar panels.

Once the job is done, the robot sends a wireless signal to the hexacopter. The flying object takes the robot back to the initial position.

With solar powered drones already a reality, it won’t be long before cleaning of large utility scale plants could be done completely remotely, with no power source needed at all.

For emerging markets, especially India, the relentless push from these solutions will eventually prove irresistible, as  costs drop to a level where they can compete easily with labour costs on the ground, and provide much needed water savings in the drier areas that large parks are coming up on.

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