The use of drone technology can also be found in the energy sector. We show you the possible use cases.
Companies in the energy sector can take advantage of drones to carry out existing work processes faster and more safely. But how exactly can drones be used in this industry? What are the advantages that speak for the use of drone technology? We answer these and other questions in the following article.
Whether wind, solar or other forms of energy - planning, inspection, maintenance and servicing are necessary to identify potential problems and sources of danger at an early stage and to reduce the risk of shutdowns. Most of the time, they are considered complex, time-consuming and costly. The use of drone technology proves that this can also be done differently. It reduces maintenance times and enables efficient life-cycle management, while avoiding unnecessary risks for employees. In the following sections, you will find out what this looks like in practice, what advantages the use of drone technology brings in detail and what you have to pay attention to.
In the energy sector, the smooth and safe operation of various plants, whether individual wind turbines, offshore wind farms or large-scale solar plants, is essential. Accordingly, very special requirements are placed on the operation of such plants, which begin at the planning stage and extend over the entire life cycle of the plant. The use of drone technology helps to use resources effectively, keep costs low and reduce the safety risk for people and machines. We will show you what this can look like in practice using the following areas of application, which only represent a part of the actual fields of application of drones in the energy sector.
Wind turbines are permanently exposed to the weather and must be regularly inspected for cracks, erosion, heavy soiling or damage. The traditional inspection of rotor blades, nacelles, lightning conductors and lighting by experts means an enormous effort for all parties involved. For example, cherry pickers, wire rope hoists or cranes have to be brought in, assembled and dismantled again. In addition, this work requires appropriately trained personnel who cannot perform this work without risk. In contrast, the latest drone technology offers significant advantages. The drone ascends independently of external aids and enables the detailed inspection of every technical detail - almost free of any risk from the ground. The resulting (live) video and image material can be examined directly by specialist personnel on site or transmitted immediately to a person in charge of this task for further viewing. The use of drones thus makes the inspection of wind turbines more flexible, safer and more cost-effective. In addition, flight routes can be created that can be flown automatically during the next inspection. This reduces the planning effort for follow-up inspections.
The construction of new solar plants is growing steadily, but this also increases the need for regular maintenance and inspections to ensure that the cells last as long as possible. Similar to the inspection of wind turbines, drones minimise manual effort and the dangers to which industrial climbers are exposed when ascending. With the help of the thermal imaging cameras carried along, defective photovoltaic cells, cables or inverters as well as incorrectly connected modules can be detected in detail, for example. The technique of "contrast enhancement" is also used to improve the structure in a thermal image and thus detect more anomalies. With the use of state-of-the-art drone technology, larger areas can be inspected more quickly through aerial photography. In addition, corresponding software helps to automatically detect defective areas. These flights can also be partially automated thanks to digital flight plans, which in total leads to significantly lower costs, allowing inspections to be carried out more frequently, which in turn contributes to the faster detection of problems.
Not only the height of the wind turbine, but also the location can be an obstacle for inspection. Drones can also be controlled from a greater distance, with consistent quality and reliability. Even high wind speeds can be overcome by expert selection of the appropriate drone model. If necessary, flight routes can also be predefined using GPS and flown automatically - another potential way to save time and effort when inspecting such installations. This makes it easier to reach remote wind farms without exposing employees to risk.
The described areas of application already show a multitude of advantages that go hand in hand with the use of drone technology. We summarise these again for you here.
Drones provide detailed inspection results. Detect the smallest cracks, damage and contamination with the help of drone-based, high-resolution aerial images - even in hard-to-reach offshore wind farms. Identify sources of danger and reduce the risk of future damage and downtime.
Carry out inspections more effectively and cheaply than with conventional methods - without unnecessary downtime and effort for mounting and removing access aids. This results in significant time and cost savings.
Instead of having your employees carry out manual inspections directly at the plant and expose them to high risks, why not hire a certified and tested drone service provider? The inspection can be conveniently controlled from the ground, which significantly increases employee safety .
The following images clearly show you how the use of drone technology in your industry can look in practice.
During commissioning or regular maintenance, drone inspections are 95 per cent more efficient and identify defects that may be missed during manual inspections. Drone inspections take less than 10 minutes per MW and save an average of 1200€/MW in costs, with savings increasing with the size of the turbines. The increased accuracy can help improve a site's energy production.
An inspection of a solar park by drone costs up to 46 % less than a manual inspection.
With an inspection time of approximately 15-30 minutes per wind turbine, drones reduce labour hours and turbine downtime for maintenance checks by over 75%. Ground-based inspections typically miss 15-20% of damage detected by drones, which can lead to higher failure rates and energy loss. Class 5 damage, such as a lightning strike to the blade tip, can result in a 6-8% loss of efficiency and a 500% higher failure rate, while Class 3 damage, such as a crack to the trailing edge, can result in a 3-6% loss of efficiency and a 200% higher failure rate.
Different applications require different types of recording. The following list is intended to show you an excerpt of the types of recordings that modern drones can deliver today.
In addition, there are the following optional services, which can usually be booked in addition to the recordings:
The costs for a drone mission can vary and depend on the area of operation, the booked services and possible permits that have to be obtained in some areas for drone flights by the corresponding drone pilot. Unfortunately, it is not possible to make a general statement about the costs of a drone mission. In most cases, however, the costs are significantly lower than the usual solutions. However, you can contact us at any time for a non-binding enquiry. We can then provide an initial estimate based on your information.
The process of an assignment usually differs somewhat and depends on the exact type of assignment. However, most assignments can be broken down to a common basic structure, which we present to you here as an example.
The planning phase is also an important point when using drones and should be given sufficient attention. Because only with proper planning can the drone flight be carried out in such a way that it delivers the results you want.
When searching for a suitable drone pilot, the objectives of the drone operation worked out from the planning phase should already be available. This facilitates the search and simplified the actual planning of the flight execution. The search itself requires a sufficient amount of time and attention to find a suitable drone pilot. We go into this point again separately below in a separate section of this article. There you will learn how to find the right drone service provider for you quickly and easily with the help of skyzr.
The execution of the actual flight is the core element of any drone operation. This is also where possible gaps in the planning phase become apparent. However, if the drone pilot is well informed and has mastered his craft, nothing stands in the way of a successful execution.
The optional post-processing of the recordings is more or less extensive depending on the desired result. If you only need pure raw images, at most the selection of the most suitable images will be necessary. Alternatively, you can also have the images evaluated by a specialised drone service provider. In this case, for example, damaged areas in plants will be marked for you straight away. Of course, there is also the option of separating the taking and evaluation of the images and commissioning different service providers to do this or carrying out the evaluation yourself.
Finally, the results of the drone flight are transmitted to you. Optionally summarised in a detailed final report. Depending on the scope of services booked, the material consists either of the pure raw images, a post-processed version or also a comprehensive report in which, in the case of inspection flights, annotations and analyses have already been carried out on the damaged areas. For the selection of the correct results, these must, as mentioned, have already been discussed to a sufficient extent in the planning phase or at the latest when selecting a drone pilot.
Drone flights are also subject to special regulations and laws that describe exactly under what conditions and where they may be flown. But don't worry, you as a potential customer of a drone service don't have to worry or worry about this. A well-trained drone pilot is well aware of the current legal situation and will take care of all the necessary permits. If there are any problems in a planned area or on a necessary flight route, a well-trained drone pilot will immediately make you aware of this and suggest appropriate alternatives.
If you still want to look into the legal aspects, you can read the following four sections. Alternatives take you to the next topic, which deals with the criteria for suitable drone pilots.
The most important regulations for the operation of drones in the EU can be found in the EU-wide EU Drone Regulation which has been in force since the beginning of 2021. Numerous requirements for drone flights of all kinds are already defined here.
These points are additionally supplemented by country-specific and thus local regulations in which, for example, additional GEO zones are defined and which specify the locations in which drones cannot be flown or can only be flown under certain conditions. In some of these zones, flights are then only possible with a Exemption possible.
Obtaining all relevant permits that may be required for a specific drone flight is the responsibility of the drone pilot in charge. However, this may involve additional costs. For this reason, the planning phase is important so that the drone pilot in question is able to give an assessment in advance. The decisive factor here is above all the location where the drones are to be flown. If this is in a no-fly zone, higher costs for the mission are to be expected.
Drone flights open up completely new perspectives. However, these often lead to the privacy of other people being violated under certain circumstances. Especially when inspecting solar installations on or near residential properties, this can quickly become the case, depending on the size of the property. It can therefore happen that the drone is used to view neighbouring properties. However, this is problematic. It should therefore be clarified in advance how exactly the flight will take place, because it may be necessary to obtain permission from the neighbours or a general exemption.
The question of copyrights and rights of use is also an important point in drone photography. It should be clearly defined who owns the rights to the footage and who may use it for what purpose. It often happens that drone pilots would like to retain the right to use their own recordings in order to be able to use the material for further customer acquisition. If this is not desired, this point should be clarified accordingly in advance. When using our skyzr marketplace, you can always be sure that you will receive all the necessary rights to the footage thanks to our uniform regulations, regardless of which service provider takes over the production of the footage.
You can find further important legal points in our article on the EU Drone Regulation.
The search for a drone pilot can prove tricky. Where do you start the search? Who is best suited for the job? Depending on their own level of knowledge regarding drone flights, clients often find it difficult to find suitable drone service providers for a project.
But there is a solution for this too. Our skyzr marketplace offers an ideal platform for tendering projects. With the help of our guided process for posting orders, you can publish your requirements on our platform without any prior knowledge. You will then receive comparable offers from our registered and skyzr-approved drone service providers. You select the best offer for you and can contact the drone service provider directly, whereupon they can start planning and implementing the project straight away.
Like many other industries, the energy sector also offers numerous areas of application for drones. In particular, drones can exploit their full potential in the inspection of a wide variety of plants such as wind and solar. Drone technology helps operators and service providers in this sector to reduce costs, increase safety by reducing risks for people and machinery, and increase efficiency.
The use of state-of-the-art drones provides you with high-resolution image and video material from every conceivable perspective. Especially in the field of maintenance and servicing of solar systems, the use of thermal imaging cameras helps to detect damage to individual cells quickly and easily. You benefit from the flexible use of drones, which are quickly ready for take-off, do not depend on additional external equipment and can also be controlled from a greater distance.
By creating digital flight plans in advance with an appropriate service provider, the actual drone flights can be (partially) automated. This makes inspection flights comparable, reduces the costs for follow-up inspections and thus gives you more flexibility in planning and execution.
Our skyzr marketplace is ideal for finding suitable drone pilots. Send us a non-binding enquiry today.
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