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Ground-Breaking Aerial Electroluminescence Inspection Service

M Dhimish & J Porter

27 Mar 2024

Above, the global leader in aerial inspection services and software in the utility scale solar industry, has been awarded UK-Taiwan collaborative research and development funding, provided by Innovate UK and the Department of Industrial Technology (DoIT) to create a game-changing new field solar module inspections service. Starting in March 2024, the 24-month Aerial Electroluminescence Inspections (AELI) project will create an aerial version of electroluminescence (EL) inspections that will be much faster and more affordable than the currently available ground-based EL approaches. EL inspections capture the luminescent light being emitted by PV modules as they are back powered to generate a very detailed image of the solar panel, akin to an X-ray. This will enable higher quality condition assessment and root cause diagnosis, at scale.  

The AELI Project: The AELI project will develop faster back powering equipment that can operate in conjunction with a drone carrying a short-wave infrared (SWIR) camera. The resulting EL images will show more granular details of the modules than ever before. AELI will also develop image processing and analytical software, to identify cracks and anomalies quickly and easily. This will enable asset owners to carry out targeted and more efficient maintenance activities, module repairs or replacements. In addition, the EL images will be used to provide irrefutable evidence of problematic anomalies that, over time, may develop into more serious issues. 

The AELI Project Partners: Taking the project lead, Above has teamed up with the University of York (Laboratory of Photovoltaics) for their expertise in solar cell imaging and analysis, and solar farm electrical systems performance. Taiwanese project partner, Dragonfly UAS will create a drone EL solution to enable high resolution aerial image capture. Dragonfly’s subcontractor, PV Guider, will upgrade their backpowering system to decrease the time required to perform aerial EL inspection. The University of York will develop automated EL image analysis software, utilising artificial intelligence. Above will bring all the data together on its digital twin platform, SolarGain. This will enable the EL images and fault root-cause analysis to be recorded and displayed, and maintenance task lists to be created.  

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