Octopus Energy confirms successful trial of drone monitoring at UK solar farm. Image: Above.

A solar farm managed by Octopus Energy Generation has successfully trialled autonomous drones as means to provide operational and maintenance improvements.

The tests had been led by aerial data and solar software provider Above, who, alongside technology partner HeroTech8, utilised a remotely operated drone to carry out routine inspections more frequently in the solar farm.

Drones could solve several issues when it comes to solar farm inspections. Firstly, drones are relatively cheap to purchase and operate and allow users to access areas that previously may have been out of reach due to location, cost or other factors.

The aerial vehicle is also able to carry a payload ranging from sensors and cameras to parcels, increasing that potential massively, making for an exciting proposition for firms with the foresight and the ingenuity to harness it.

“For the past 7 years Above has been leading the adoption of drones within the global solar industry. Now with recent advances in fully autonomous drone technology we are at a second inflection point in their role in this critically important industry,” said Will Hitchcock, CEO at Above.

“Currently, the majority of operating costs for managing solar plants are personnel and site visits. Technicians regularly attend solar plants to inspect equipment such as inverters, fencing, combiner boxes and modules. Using drone technology would help drive more efficiencies by reducing fault detection times and improving the outputs achieved during site visits by O&Ms.”

HeroTech8’s technology is recognised as a drone-in-a-box, in which the drone lives on-site with auto-landing, take off and wireless charging capabilities.

The data collected by drones could provide technicians with the exact location and more information on the type of fault. For example, Above’s software SolarGain shows solar managers what is happening on-site.

“We are delighted to be able to support Above and Octopus with this UK first of its kind trial. It is precisely the type of deployment we hoped our systems would be used for and we are excited to help our partners realise the efficiencies it can enable,” said Mike Edwards, head of business development at HeroTech8.