Wind turbines are becoming increasingly popular as a sustainable energy source across the UK and indeed across the world.
The nature of those giant rotating blades however means that performing regular inspections and preventative maintenance can pose a real problem, as can the fact that a breakdown can cause a great deal of time, money and in some cases, such as with a breakaway blade, physical danger.
The wind turbine is fitted with three rotor blades to allow it convert the power of the wind into electricity and these blades are subject to immense stress both during manufacturing and operation – particularly as they are made to be as light as possible. Even a defect that begins as small can pose a risk to both staff and operations as it grows through continued use. It’s often the case that the fault is only detectable once it has reached breaking point and then repairs can be both difficult and costly to repair, as well as causing excessive down time in the farm’s operation. Thermal imaging offers a non invasive, non contact solution that can be regularly deployed to predict where faults will occur.
Thermal imaging, using a a state of the art camera attached to a UAV or drone, can provide a simple and efficient solution to the issue of regular inspections. It’s widely acknowledged that electrical components will get excessively hot before they fail and so they will become more visible to a radiometic level thermal camera. Once potential problem areas have been identified, staff can be deployed to carry out further investigation and carry out repairs before failure occurs. All of this with minimal personal risk and no downtime for the turbines themselves.
Thermal Fire Monitoring Following a Grain Store Terminal Explosion Grain Store Explosion and Year-Long Fire – July 5, 2020 – Tilbury Port, London On July 5, 2020, a series of events (possibly by a spark) triggered a large dust explosion and a subsequent fire at the Grain Store Terminal at the Port of Tilbury in London. This was a serious event that required the attention of a large-scale emergency response to get the subsequent grain fire under control and avoid additional explosions. No one was seriously hurt, which is nothing short of a miracle given the number of people on the scene and the amount of reinforced concrete and debris thrown high into the sky before raining down on the surrounding buildings. Traditional firefighting methods and techniques are ineffective in the case of grain storage fires. Using water to extinguish the inferno is ineffective with grain and dust fires, and the added weight might have caused a catastrophic structural collapse, exacerbating an already challenging situation. As a result, London fire teams were on the scene for days while a proper fire strategy and plan was developed and implemented, with staff always remaining on-site to monitor the situation over the following weeks. Throughout this early period, there was always the possibility of more explosions and the fire spreading since the grain stored in the linked silos generates dust that may ignite if the temperature is high enough. Drone Media Imaging was contracted to fly thermal imaging flights to collect temperature data to estimate fire spread and track fire management efforts over time. For instance, were the temperatures rising, falling, or remaining constant? We began operations on July 7, 2020, flying three flights each day, seven days a week initially, to compare temperatures and report back to crisis management teams and emergency service gold commanders. We eventually completed our thermal imaging missions one year and a month after the initial Grain Store explosion in late August 2021! While not all of the silos were full with grain, many were, and several were burning at temperatures far beyond 800°C. Before the fire could be quenched, the building had to be entirely demolished. Temperatures more than 80°C were still being recorded in the grain that remained on the ground after demolition 13 months later. Gaining safe access to the terminal to fly was not without difficulty, as emergency services had imposed a 50m exclusion zone surrounding the terminal due to the possibility of additional explosions. As a result, our risk assessments and method statements had to be developed specifically for this circumstance and rigorously tested to assure both safe drone flights and the most accurate thermal data gathering at this vital juncture. We continued to provide the Port of Tilbury London and the accompanying emergency services with daily and weekly calibrated temperature measurements that documented the progress of the grain store fire over 13 months. As thermal infrared aerial specialists, we provided data in the form of detailed reports, thermal imaging, RGB photographic and video footage.
How Do Solar Panels Operate? How Does the Sun Affect a Photovoltaic Solar Panel? The sun continually discharges little parcels of energy called photons, which arrive with us here on earth approximately 8.5 minutes after they have left their source. Those little photons however can take 100,000 years to get from the sun’s core to the surface where they can start their journey to us – so we’re bathing in some very old light when we hit the beach on a hot summer’s day! Solar panels are designed to capture the power of this light and convert it into energy that we can use – natural, clean and green. How Does a Solar Photovoltaic Panel Work? Solar panels are made up of individual cells often constructed of silicon. These cells, call Photo Voltaic (PV) cells become energised when they are in contact with photons and this energy is converted into a usable electrical current. PV cells are wired together in collections on a board and then boards can be wired together into arrays to create even more power. Obviously for solar panels to function at their optimum, a clear bright day is best but especially in the UK, there is mix of weather conditions which means that they are not in full sun at all times. As discussed, the PV cells that make up a solar panel are designed to capture light and not heat. As the temperature rises, the circuits actually become less effective and so less power is created. While the summer months offer more hours of light, it’s a bit of a myth that you can’t generate electricity from solar panels outside of March – October – there’s less light for sure but your solar panels still work. Also, counterintuitively, less heat can actually mean that panels function more efficiently. Why Should Solar Panels be Professionally Maintained? Over the years, panels can suffer faults that remain invisible to the naked eye but which impact their efficiency in terms of generating power. In serious situations these faults can even lead to a fire hazard. So it’s really important to keep up with the maintenance on your panels to keep your installation safe and also to make sure you are making the most of your investment. Obviously, the problem with regular and specialist inspection of your panels is that they are most likely to be in inaccessible areas of your home such as your roof. Having an actual human being up there to manually test each panel can be costly due to the health and safety precautions they have to take and potentially equipment they have to hire in order to gain access, plus you run the risk of damage to your roof structure during the inspection process. However, there is a simple and non-invasive solution that reduces inspection costs and means that if you do have faults that need to be rectified, that personnel are deployed with all the information they need to carry out repairs in a targeted fashion. Why Use Thermography and Infrared Drone Cameras to Inspect Solar Panels? Faults on a solar panel can be detected by a drone carrying a thermal imaging infrared camera – these faults will show up clearly in an image taken under the right conditions if they are there. A thermal equipped drone will fly over a solar installation while it is in operation (the panel needs to be under full load at the time of the survey) so there is no down time. A drone can cover large areas in a short time and take both thermograms (heat based images) and standard images at the same time so any faults can be immediately pinpointed within the installation. Where Can You Hire a Drone Thermal Imaging Survey? To find out more about how drone thermography can be used to assess the effectiveness of your solar panel installation of any size – from a simple roof top installation through to large scale solar farms – please just get in touch with Drone Media Imaging and we are happy to talk through your requirements. Is There a Drone Solar Panel Inspection Service Near Me? Yes, absolutely, Drone Media Imaging travel to all parts of the UK from our base in the south-east near Gatwick, West Sussex. We are happy to provide you with a full, accurate quote without obligation, all we need is the location information where the Solar
Trained and Certified in Aerial Thermography Drone Media Imaging use trained and certified thermographers to deliver thermographic services and inspections across many domestic, industrial and commercial sectors throughout the UK. Whether it is solar photovoltaic panel inspection in accordance with IEC 62446-3:2017 and BS EN ISO 62446-1:2016 or fire detection and management in disasters zones or underground landfill fires, Drone Media Imaging can deploy across the UK quickly, efficiently and with the right experience. Aerial Thermography Category 2 Thermography certification to category level 2 focuses on radiometric temperature measurement analysis and the benefits of obtaining precise temperature data from challenging environments for diagnosing and reporting purposes. Whether for qualitative evaluation or quantitative evaluation our report and diagnosis analysis provide you with answers following a non-destructive inspection format from the air via UAV drones equipped with the latest technology. Drone Media Imaging is a small but unique drone operations company specialising in airborne thermal imaging across the UK. Our certification and experience when paired with our CAA enhanced OSC permissions, means we are more than capable of performing any aerial thermal imaging job however challenging. As level 2 thermographers we dive into the fundamental principles of surface emissivity, reflected temperature correction, spatial and measurement resolutions, and as a result providing clients with accurate data reporting that can be trusted. Aerial Thermal Imaging Infrared Cameras Thermal Imaging cameras capture the reflected radiation from a surface or heat source and convert the recorded temperatures to an image map for analysis. This unique worldview provides numerous advantageous and cost-effective non-destructive options for commercial and residential needs. Aerial thermal cameras of the highest quality provide non-contact temperature measurements in difficult to reach locations that cannot be observe from the ground. As is the case with all drone inspections, the hazards connected with operating at a height are minimised as is the potential of inflicting damage to the structure during the inspection procedure. Case Study – Explosion at a Grain Store Port of Tilbury London Following an explosion at the Port of Tilbury London grain store in July 2020, Drone Media Imaging were hired to provide aerial thermal data support to emergency service gold commanders and the senior management for the grain store. Flying thermographic data collection missions, hourly, daily, and weekly for over 13 months from the initial explosion and subsequent silo fires, we provided important thermal data reports as the fire developed, enabling the fire management strategy to be accurately measured over time. Comprehensive reports, thermal imaging, RGB photography, and video pictures were used to provide the information essential to effectively manage the problem until the building was destroyed in 2020.