News & Insights
UAVs at SSWUK Ltd!

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones are typically small quadcopters that are controlled remotely by AI or human pilots on the ground equipped with high-resolution cameras. Originally designed for military surveillance, in recent years they have become very popular with both commercial and recreational users for their ability to capture high-quality aerial photography.

SSWUK Ltd use visual and infra-red drones to survey potential and existing sites. We utilise the captured aerial photography to create accurate 2D and 3D models of the surrounding area, which is used in numerous streams of the business, including design, maintenance, and construction of photovoltaic installations.

Google Earth vs Drone Imaging

While Google Earth is an amazing tool, we cannot rely on it’s maps to obtain site dimensions for projects. The following photos show the site taken from Google Earth compared with the drone image, As you can see, the drone photos give a higher degree of resolution allowing for more accurate measurements of the site’s dimensions. Depending on flight height, you can expect accuracy of up to +/- 5cm.

Google Earth Image of a potential rooftop site
Drone Image of a potential rooftop site

3D Imaging

As previously mentioned, we have the ability to create not just 2D images but 3D models of a site. This is particularly useful for larger commercial rooftops, where it is impractical to measure the site using other means, including tape measures and laser pointers. The model is created by specialist software that stitches multiple images together to form a 3D representation of the site. This allows us to determine numerous pieces of information about the site, including roof inclination, building height, shading object height, and pinpoint any obstructions that may hinder the project.

An example of 3D imaging using our drone

Mini Case Study: Large PV array

An example of a recent project, was a large PV array situated across numerous green field sites. The drone was used to capture 20 photos per 1000m2, allowing us to generate a geo-referenced high-resolution image of the site. This orthometric image is then imported in to CAD software, scaled and used to design a solar array.  In addition to array design, we can also obtain the topography including shapes of obstructions such as trees, to determine how the shading affects the PV generation wihin our yield modelling software, PVSyst. The information collected by the drone is brought together to allow an accurate, scaled array to be designed.

High Resolution image of design using drone images

Operation and Maintenance

Upon installation of a PV array, the drone facilitates operation and maintenance tasks. Flying over the ground we can see the visual aspect of the panels, and determine if any are damaged and in need of repair. Our new Mavic Enterprise Advanced drone is also capable of large-scale thermal imaging within the infra-red spectrum, which allows us to look at the internal condition of the panels, detecting hot-spots, by-pass diode failures, and other anomalies at the module level which may not be observable through visual inspection alone and would take far longer to detect by traditional means.

An example of a string fault, invisible to the naked eye, detected in the IR spectrum

We use an AI reporting software that arranges any anomalies within a severity ranking and presents the detected faults in a clearly interpretable format, linking each of them to the string identification numbers and geo-spacially, so that our operatives can easily locate and rectify them on the ground. We can perform these services at highly competitive rates.

The drone optimizes our workload saving time and money while providing a high level of service. If you have requirements for drone services relating to new or existing installations.