Inside Unmanned Systems

DEC 2017 - JAN 2018

Inside Unmanned Systems provides actionable business intelligence to decision-makers and influencers operating within the global UAS community. Features include analysis of key technologies, policy/regulatory developments and new product design.

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              19 unmanned systems inside December 2017/January 2018 pickers, which wasn't very eff icient. Deploying UAS saves both time and money, and makes it possible to perform inspections without shutting these stations down. In just 30 minutes, the drone can gather the high-quality images needed to perform the required calculations—images they just can't get from a camera on the ground. "The benefit of using a drone is you have a larger vari- ability in perspective," Prahl said. "It's not possible to characterize solar plants if you're taking images from the ground. Taking images from the air is much faster. It can be done automatically. If you tell the drone how to f ly, it launches, takes the images and comes back. It's efficient and fast and gives you good quality data." The Sensors For now, DLR f lies optic and infrared cameras on the drone, Prahl said, but they're also interested in adding gas detectors. These sensors would identify any leaks from the transfer f luid system. They're looking at various models now and hope to find one that's not only sensi- tive enough to detect oil leaks, but that can also easily be deployed on the drone. "These solar plants use heat transfer f luid. It's what takes heat from the power plant to make it available in the power block to produce electricity, depending on the technology the plant is using," Prahl said. "This is an organic oil you have pumping through the power plant. You can have leakages where this hot oil may get into the environment. It's important to detect these leakages as early as possible." Why Microdrones When DLR first began researching systems, they wanted a drone that featured a long-endurance time, that could carry 1 kilogram of payload and that offered automatic waypoint navigation. The Microdrones system checked all those boxes, but the company was also attractive be- cause of its global presence, Prahl said. One of the main challenges DLR faces in deploying UAS technology to inspect solar panel stations is the dif- ferent regulations they must adhere to in every country they work in, Prahl said. While they have the necessary permissions to f ly in Spain, that doesn't carry over to oth- er solar plants around the world that could benefit from this technology. "The solution is to have a drone provider or drone com- pany that has a worldwide presence," Prahl said. "A UAS service provider in the country where you want to work." Microdrones also provides excellent customer service, Prahl said, and he knows he can turn to them if he ever needs guidance. "We have continuously used their products and services since about 2010," Prahl said. "We've bought two drones from them but also have been able to upload firmware and update payloads. We can call to check new function- ality and how it will impact the drone. Microdrones has very good service after the sale; they are happy to help with questions, training and support." The Techniques Through QFly and the md4-1000, DLR can perform three measurement techniques on the solar station mirrors: • Classic makes it possible to determine the shape and receiver position with a high spatial resolution. • Survey provides similar information, but from a height of 200 meters and at a lower resolution. With this technique, the team can determine if there are defects in a mirror's shape, module orientation, torsion, or tracking deviations. • Thermo identifies heat loss, particularly in receivers that have defects in the vacuum insulation. The team can also use the transient thermal measurement procedure for a detailed qualification of heat losses for individual receivers. The md4-1000 UAS Features: • Up to 45 minutes of flight time, depending on conditions and payload • The ability to fly in harsh environments, including strong winds, magnetic fields, high temperatures, voltage and humidity • It can carry a payload of up to 2.7 pounds, or 1.2 kilograms. • It's available with direct georeferencing (DG), a technology that provides significant cost savings to users and enables access when images must be georeferenced in challenging locations. It also enables corridor mapping.

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