Renewable Energy

OnSight & DroneDeploy: 30% faster solar barcode scanning with robots

Stats on outcome beside OnSight Robot in solar farm

Name: OnSight Technology

HQ location: Folsom, CA

Industry: Computer vision software & solar technology

Using robots to: Scan barcodes on solar panels, automate asset inspection, improve maintenance.

Long, hot days scanning barcodes

Whether you’re building a new solar farm or expanding an existing one, a crucial task is recording the barcodes and locations of individual panels. This data is critical for warranty management and monitoring the condition of solar assets over time.

But scanning and digitally recording solar barcodes is a difficult, time-consuming job. It often requires months of walking in hot, humid or wet conditions. Bright sun can reflect off the panels making it hard to get the right shot.

Due to the scale of the job and the number of people involved, there’s also human error and inconsistency to deal with. It requires a massive amount of coordination to manage shift handovers and avoid gaps in the data.

A typical solar farm might have 500,000 panels that need to be scanned. There’s a massive amount of coordination required to capture this volume of data accurately. It’s tough for humans to get it right.

- Derek Chase, CEO, OnSight Technologies

Enter the next generation of solar robots

OnSight has been working with DroneDeploy Robotics to develop a unique solution to this problem – using robotic rovers to scan barcodes without humans present on-site.

OnSight’s rover is equipped with rotating high-resolution PTZ and thermal cameras that lock onto the panels and capture images while moving. The barcodes are interpreted using computer vision and converted to digital readings.

This geolocated data is uploaded to DroneDeploy and visualized in a high-res map. Operators can easily see where assets are located, making it easier to plan maintenance missions. If there’s a product recall or warranty issue, they simply type the barcode numbers into the system to find out exactly where those panels are.

Once the barcodes are recorded, the robot can stay on-site for future inspections. It can easily be sent to photograph specific panels when warranty or maintenance issues come up. This saves employees from having to travel to remote sites often.

DroneDeploy also makes it easy to track the condition of all assets over time. This is particularly useful after major weather events, as before and after images can be used for insurance.

The value of having the robot left on-site is immense. It allows companies to see if panels are degrading at the rate specified by the manufacturer. You can detect any quality issues and even look at trends across the entire site.

- Derek Chase, CEO, OnSight Technologies

A view of the OnSight robot in platform scanning a solar farm

Low emissions, speed and 100% accuracy

To date, OnSight has used its rover to scan over 20,000 barcodes with 100% accuracy. It’s currently scanning roughly 30% faster than a human worker.

And the level of automation is continuously increasing. OnSight and DroneDeploy are optimistic they can increase the speed even further, potentially getting the robot to work up to 40-50% faster than traditional methods.

They also plan to achieve full robot autonomy in the next year using DroneDeploy’s mission planning. This means operators will not need to ‘drive’ the rovers remotely – the robots will navigate the solar farms completely independently.

But even now the value is clear. The robots are faster, more robust and collect more consistent, accurate data than has ever been possible with conventional scanning methods. This promises to be a game-changing technology for the solar industry.

Working with DroneDeploy has been a great experience. We rally around solving specific issues in the industry, like barcode scanning. Together we’re coming up with innovative robotic solutions that were impossible just a few years ago.

- Derek Chase, CEO, OnSight Technologies

Want to learn more about using DroneDeploy to inspect solar assets?

Chat with our robotics team!

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