Solar generation is one of the best ways to mitigate both rising electricity costs — and the negative impacts of climate change.
New York City non-profit Solar One is working to get solar projects in low-income neighborhoods — and a drone is a big part of helping them do it.
Anika Wistar-Jones, the Affordable Solar Program manager at the NYC solar non-profit Solar One, uses a thermal version of French dronemaker Parrot’s Anafi drone as part of her job.
That drone has two cameras — a 4K camera and a FLIR radiometric thermal-imaging unit — and is based on the consumer-focused Bebop design, making it easy for people with backgrounds outside of drones to incorporate drones into their jobs. And like DJI’s Mavic Line, it’s also a foldable drone.
“One of the good things you can see through the thermal imaging here is that the roof is cooler than the panels,” she explained, in a YouTube video about the project. “It means that on the hottest days, the solar panels can work at their best. They’re being cooled down by the roof around them.”
Watch the complete video here:
Thermal cameras on drones can reveal things that are invisible to the naked eye, giving live temperature readings that can allow pilots to identify hotspots in real time. Outside of the solar industry, other professionals including fire departments, construction workers, agriculture, and vulcanologists are using drones equipped with thermal cameras to capture aerial images of the landscapes or buildings below. In solar, installers can use rooftop imagery for 3D rendering and check that panel cells are working properly through thermal vision.
Perhaps the biggest player in thermal drones is DJI. Its DJI Inspire 1 with Zenmuse XT camera, powered by FLIR’s industry leading Tau 2 thermal camera, provides accurate temperature measurements ideal for analytics and telemetry. And the Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual, an industrial-grade version of its Mavic 2 and Mavic 2 Enterprise drones, also has side-by-side visual and thermal cameras.
Drones are just a tiny part of Solar One’s work. The NYC solar non-profit, which has more than 100 solar projects and two megawatts of solar capacity to date, also works to teach children about renewable energies, and they have a training program for prisoners who want to reconvert in renewable energy jobs, such as Solar Panel Installer, after they get out of jail. Solar One also manages Stuyvesant Cove Park, an architect-designed, sustainably managed, 2-acre park in New York on land that was once an abandoned industrial site. The park is now home to hundreds of indigenous plants, flowers, trees, and berry bushes, and a site for many free public events.