Key Uses of Drones in the Green Energy Industry

So far, 2022 has shown us there’s no escaping climate change. Extreme droughts, heavy rains, heat waves, wildfires, and melting glaciers all point to a rapidly warming world. No matter where you live, you’re probably experiencing extreme weather conditions. No matter what the future holds, the green energy industry plays a key role in it.

Some countries, like the United Kingdom, have pushed for climate change legislation for decades. In 2008, Britain passed the world’s first legally-binding national commitment to lower greenhouse gas emissions. Now, other countries are beginning to move in that direction as well. For instance, the United States recently passed its own legislation dedicating $375 billion over the next decade towards fighting climate change.  

Moving toward green energy, including solar, wind, geothermal, biogas, eligible biomass, and low-impact small hydroelectric sources, is a critical part of the solution.

In fact, the green energy sector as a whole is predicted to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.4% from 2021 to 2030.

But, with this growth comes challenges. Wind turbines pose dangerous heights, solar farms require regular inspection of vast numbers of panels, and all of these facilities require the right locations. 

Drones are already making a positive contribution to the sector. Not only are UAVs perfectly suited for solving many of these problems, they’re actually fueling even greater efficiencies.

Let’s investigate just a few of the incredible ways drones help maximize the green energy sector’s potential, and why you don’t want to miss out on including them in your operation’s needs.

Drones Assist In Planning New Facilities

As the world’s nations adopt renewable energy sources, developing new production sites becomes more important.

However, if you’ve ever planned for, designed, or built any infrastructure at all, you know it’s a task easier said than done. Wind turbines, solar farms, and other renewable energy collection sites require significant planning to build. 

Drones are excellent tools to help in building these sites.

Before construction begins, you need to identify the right location for development. UAV reconnaissance and data collection help determine the ideal location for both resource collection and construction.

Gathering information on topography, wind speeds, exposure to sunlight, and other environmental characteristics is easily accomplished using drone technology. Even remote areas are made accessible through a UAV’s ability to fly over challenging terrain. 

Once an area is identified for development, drones can use standard RGB cameras or LiDAR to make highly accurate maps and 3D models of the region. As construction begins, aerial mapping and surveys help you monitor construction progress and keep track of stockpile levels, making UAVs an indispensable tool throughout the process. 

Drones in the oil and gas industry: a view of an off-shore oil well
Working in the oil & gas industry? Drones provide major benefits there, too. (click image for article)

The Green Energy Industry Benefits from Drone Inspections

Perhaps the best-known use of drones in industrial applications is inspections. With their ability to safely approach objects from nearly any angle, drones quickly inspect facilities and equipment. 

And, as you probably know, renewable energy sources like solar farms and wind turbines require constant inspection.

But, checking these facilities using traditional methods is costly, time consuming, and inefficient. Before UAVs arrived on the scene, most renewable energy sites utilized manual inspections, or even the use of expensive assets, such as helicopters.

While these inspections got the job done, they routinely put people in dangerous situations.

Just imagine what it’s like hanging hundreds of feet off the side of a wind turbine, searching for defects. Not exactly the safest, right?

Now, drones make this practice obsolete. Using specific payloads, such as thermal cameras, drones collect far more accurate data without risk to personnel. 

Speed is another advantage of drones over traditional inspection methods. For example, inspecting hundreds of solar panels for dead or dying solar cells could take days, if inspected manually. But, using thermal imaging, UAVs can complete the inspection of entire fields of solar panels in a fraction of the time people can from the ground.

Although the green energy industry already benefits from drone inspections , greater adoption of this technology continues, as more people discover the value.

Drone inspections simply come with too many concrete & practical benefits to ignore.

Skypull Harnesses Electricity with Drones

Ok, so it’s easy to see how drones benefit the green energy industry. For planning, safety, and efficiency, they’re powerful tools.

But, what if they could actually produce electricity?

That’s exactly what Skypull asked, and aims to answer.

Let’s take a quick look at how their unique solution works.

In general, windspeeds increase as you ascend in altitude through the upper troposphere (7km to 20km high). And, increasing wind speeds mean a greater potential energy.

Fortunately, you don’t need to ascend nearly that high to realize the benefits of more powerful winds.

Since 2013, Switzerland-based startup Skypull has investigated the idea of drones turning wind energy into electricity. The company’s drones are attached to a reel, pole, and retractable cable that looks remarkably like a giant fishing pole.

These specially-designed drones climb into the sky, operating between 200 -800m in the air. Once there, wind generates all the lift they need to stay airborne (similar to a kite). As the wind moves the drone, the motion & unwinding of the reel is converted into electricity. 

This technology has many advantages. The system can be deployed almost anywhere, the UAVs can fly during the day or night, and it has less of an environmental impact than wind turbines. Skypull recently completed a proof-of-concept performance, and now sets their sights on larger, more powerful versions, with of goal of a system capable of powering 1,100 households.

Key Takeaways

Drones are a critical ally of the green energy industry, from planning for the future to inspecting the present and beyond. As the green energy sector grows, there is every reason to believe drones will grow along with it.

UAVs are here to stay, and will only become a more significant staple in fighting climate change.

Are you ready to incorporate drones into your green energy project?

If so, we’re here to help. Whether you need help inspecting panels on your solar farm, examining wind turbines, or surveying for you next project, the professionals at Consortiq are here for you.

With headquarters in both the UK and US, we ensure our pilots and training are up-to-date and top-notch, no matter where your operations take place.

Simply contact us with the form below for a no-pressure consultation.

Are you ready to find your better way?

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly, is an award-winning photographer/writer and licensed (FAA) Commercial sUAS pilot. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, David is a former Marine Corps officer with a BS in Oceanography and has earned his MBA from the University of Redlands. David has worked for Fortune 100 companies and has a background in aerospace, construction, military/defense, real estate, and technology.

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