A Spanish research project is aiming to optimize solar PV plant performance through the use of drones.

The €650,000 project, called SCARAB, is a collaboration between power and control electronics outfit Ingeteam and the University of Castilla La Mancha.

According to Ingeteam, the project aims to develop more efficient sensors to monitor and process the signals received during inspection as well as automatic PV panel fault detection. It also aims to develop advanced fault classification algorithms that can estimate a PV plant’s status and optimize maintenance strategies.

Launch of a drone-based PV plant inspection service is planned for 2018.

The drone will feature in-built sensors; algorithms to detect and classify potential causes of reduced panel performance such as damage, soiling or deterioration; other algorithms to provide indicators of the technical and economic performance of the system, and an application to optimize maintenance activities.

Ingeteam said drone inspections will lead to improved panel inspection and shorter measurement-taking and post-processing times, while minimizing operation and maintenance costs and maximizing the service life of the plant.

The project is funded by Spain’s Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness and the European Regional Development Fund.