Furthermore, we are now developing a variety of other drone services ranging from undertaking solar PV inspections to identifying potential heat losses in district heat networks using infrared cameras. Currently, we evaluate at least 3 “new” uses for UAS technology each week including projects without the deliverable being data. Under internal review are even projects using UAS to string multiple Transmission towers over a 1/3 of a mile apart.
At Natural Power, we operate our own proprietary drone blade inspection software, Ascent. Through an innovative R&D process that took place on three continents (South America, North America and Europe), on hundreds of turbines, and with several O&M partners, we refined the application’s structure and value being offered through exceptional data deliverables. We identified and overcame many challenges in regard to navigation, automated sensor calibration, positioning systems, and computer vision. The findings demonstrate the utility of using a careful and lengthy process to adapt innovative solutions to a global industry problem, particularly the importance of obtaining feedback on the solution from the target users.
We adapted real-time core machine learning technology, onboard obstacle avoidance sensors, RTK (real-time kinematic) positioning projection, and created an extremely scalable drone inspection software suite that can turn an off the shelf commercial DJI aircraft into an automated inspection solution.
The initial theory behind our modest R&D project, was that approaching the problem from a practical perspective, we could create an extremely intelligent software suite that would in effect turn an off the shelf commercial drone into an advanced automated wind turbine blade inspection platform. While this project proved to be harder than initially thought, software combined with a light-industrial commercially available aircraft have successfully created an extremely viable inspection solution.
From start to finish drone technology and services have reached a level where they can support every level of a project, and in these uncertain times, are bringing an essential level of resiliency to our services for the renewable energy sector.