Above launches first autonomous drone trial in the UK for solar PV

4th October 2022

  • Above and HeroTech8 launched the UK’s first autonomous drone trial aimed at improving the operation and management of solar PV plants.
  • Octopus Energy Generation, one of Europe’s largest investors and operators of renewable energy, was the first in the UK to use this latest innovation in autonomous drones to trial a solar farm inspection.

Above, leading aerial data and solar software provider announces the successful autonomous drone trial at a UK solar farm managed by Octopus Energy Generation. The proof of concept is the first of its kind in the UK and demonstrates how remotely operated drones have the potential to support operational and maintenance improvements at solar farms. Above’s technology partners, HeroTech8, specialises in developing drone-in-a-box technology, in which the drone lives on-site, with auto-landing, take off and wireless charging capabilities. 

Will Hitchcock, CEO at Above on the recent trial, “For the past 7 years Above has been leading the adoption of drones within the global solar industry. Now with recent advances in fully autonomous drone technology we are at a second inflection point in their role in this critically important industry.”

Currently, the majority of operating costs for managing solar plants are personnel and site visits. Technicians regularly attend solar plants to inspect equipment such as inverters, fencing, combiner boxes and modules. Using drone technology would help drive more efficiencies by reducing fault detection times and improving the outputs achieved during site visits by O&Ms.  

Mike Edwards, Head of Business Development at HeroTech8 commented, “We are delighted to be able to support Above and Octopus with this UK first of its kind trial. It is precisely the type of deployment we hoped our systems would be used for and we are excited to help our partners realise the efficiencies it can enable.” 

Autonomous drones for solar plants, deployable 24/7, could prove helpful to solar farm managers. Drones programmed to follow a route, can carry out routine inspections more frequently, collecting thermal and visual imagery. The data collected provides technicians with the exact location and more information on the type of fault, Above’s software SolarGain shows solar managers what is happening on-site.