Chicago’s Infrared Testing Inc. Adds Drone Technology to Thermographic Inspections

11 Oct 2018

Infrared Testing, Inc. (ITI) continues its global leadership in thermographic inspections by pairing its thermal imaging expertise with cutting-edge drone technology to identify issues affecting the performance of solar energy systems.

Drones equipped with infrared cameras are revolutionizing how solar systems are inspected and maintained. “A solar panel inspection that used to take days now takes just a couple of hours,” says Terry Malagoli, ITI founder and CEO. “And there’s no more hanging out of a moving helicopter to inspect a wind turbine.”

ITI’s custom drones capture detailed imagery/data in order to identify, classify and localize each anomaly, and understand the impact of its performance on the system. Pinpointing issues such as the degradation of photovoltaic cells on a solar panel or damage to a wind turbine blade caused by bird or lightning strikes before these problems escalate can help companies reduce energy loss and save money.

“Companies should consider planning a first infrared inspection of solar systems during the commissioning process to ensure against workmanship/manufacturing errors before warranty terms expire,”Malagoli said.

He added, “Ongoing annual inspections are crucial to the effective maintenance of a solar energy system in order to maximize power generation, extend the life of the system and result in a higher return on investment.”

Although solar panels need sunlight to function, high temperatures and solar panels don’t mix. Metal and silicon cells on a solar panel heat up after sun exposure, but modules that overheat beyond designed temperature ranges due to problems can vastly reduce the unit’s efficacy and even lead to system failure. Underperforming cells can put undue stress on neighboring cells, dragging down the output of the entire system. In fact, overheated modules can lower the output capacity of a solar system by about 0.5% for each degree beyond optimum temperatures.

Drone inspections can help identify anomalies, including defective cells operating above the maximum working temperature, and poor connections between the cells and protection diodes, that may lead to failure of equipment and the system. Thermal and high-resolution imagery helps identify these anomalies clearly and in a consistent manner so the end user has a complete picture of the site and what needs to be done to repair the system.

Drones Also Being Used for Envelope & Roof Inspections

ITI’s drones can efficiently survey every inch of a building from base to roof, scanning for energy loss and moisture damage.

A building envelope inspection helps to ensure the structural integrity of a commercial or industrial building. For a company that spends too much money heating and cooling its building, these drone inspections can reveal air infiltration and expensive energy leakage caused by shoddy or deteriorated sealing—even on newer buildings.

Infrared roof inspections have proven to be the most cost-effective, non-destructive method of identifying areas of roof leaks, as well as wet and deteriorating roof insulation. ITI can use drones to quickly locate areas where moisture is trapped in subsurface insulation, allowing for targeted repairs of only the damaged areas. The cost of inspection is minimal in comparison to the cost of a roof replacement.

In addition, ITI drones are optimized for other aerial and large-scale imaging needs, including wall surfaces, power lines, road and field surveys, silos and storage tanks, underground piping and game management.

Infrared Testing | http://www.infraredtesting.com