Solar Panel Efficiency Optimization with “AAI Drones” Surveys

In the pursuit of net zero goals, ensuring the efficiency of renewable energy installations and minimizing thermal losses are critical. EnerTherm Engineering is committed to helping you achieve these goals. To expand our capabilities, we have launched a separate business, AAI Drones, dedicated to providing cutting-edge drone survey services. Here’s a detailed look at how AAI Drones is enhancing the productivity of existing photovoltaic (PV) cells, identifying energy loss issues in buildings and industrial infrastructures, and measuring dangerous emitting gases.

Visit AAI Drones’ drone survey services for more information on their services.

Solar Panel Inspection Project Overview

Project Name: Drone Survey Report for Solar Panel Inspection
Location: Allia Future Business Centre, Peterborough
Date: April 14, 2024
Conducted By: AAI Drones Team

Purpose of Solar Panel Drone Inspection

The primary objective of the drone survey was to inspect the rooftop solar panels for operational integrity and efficiency. The goals included:

  • Identifying connection issues
  • Detecting malfunctioning cells
  • Assessing infrared (IR) uniformity across the panels
  • Evaluating the cleanliness of the panels


Equipment Used for Drone Survey

AAI Drones employed the DJI Matrice 350RTK drone, equipped with the H20T payload camera, which combines high-resolution visual imaging with thermal capabilities. This advanced setup allows for detailed visual inspections and thermal analysis, essential for detecting structural anomalies, temperature variations, and efficiency issues in solar panels.

Flight Plan for Solar Panel Inspection

The flight plan involved a pre-mapped route designed to comprehensively cover the solar panels on the rooftop. Authorization was obtained from the Allia Future Business Centre, and meticulous pre-flight planning, including a thorough risk assessment, was conducted to ensure a safe and effective inspection process.

Findings and Analysis

General Condition of Solar Panels

The survey revealed several key issues affecting the efficiency of the solar panels:

  • Dust Accumulation: Dust and debris were observed primarily along the sides and lower edges of the panels. This soiling pattern results from water flow over the inclined surfaces, causing dust to settle.
  • Circular Specks: Some panels displayed circular silver specks, potentially indicating damage to the polycrystalline coating.
  • Infrared Distribution: The IR analysis showed non-uniform temperature distribution across the panels. The three central rows were cooler than the outer rows, correlating with the dirt distribution on the cells.

Detailed Observations with Infrared Drone Inspection

  • Temperature Variations: Higher temperatures were noted on cleaner areas and connection points, while cooler areas corresponded with dust accumulation.
  • Connection Points: Some connection points were not visible, particularly on the left-hand side of the solar array. These points need physical inspection due to their critical role in panel efficiency.

EnerTherm Engineering Insights

EnerTherm Engineering provided valuable insights based on the drone survey findings:

Enhanced Maintenance Protocols:

  • Implemented regular cleaning schedules to mitigate dust accumulation.
  • Recommended physical inspections for obscured connection points.

Efficiency Optimization:

  • Suggested corrective actions for panels with circular specks and polycrystalline coating damage.
  • Provided a detailed plan for semi-annual thermal and visual inspections to maintain IR uniformity.

By leveraging EnerTherm Engineering’s expertise, the identified issues were promptly addressed, ensuring the solar panels operated at optimal efficiency.

Additional Use Cases of AAI Drones and EnerTherm Engineering Joint Collaboration

The joint collaboration between AAI Drones and EnerTherm Engineering combines AAI Drones’ advanced aerial capabilities and payload technology with EnerTherm Engineering’s in-depth analysis and insights to deliver superior results.

Addressing Thermal Losses in Industrial Infrastructure

Thermal losses in industrial infrastructure are a significant concern, with estimates suggesting that up to 30% of energy in industrial assets is wasted due to inefficiencies. Through their collaboration, AAI Drones and EnerTherm Engineering provide comprehensive surveys to detect these thermal anomalies and offer actionable insights to reduce energy wastage and improve overall efficiency.

Alternative Surveys for Industrial Thermal Losses

1. Infrared Thermography Surveys:

  • AAI Drones utilize their high-resolution thermal imaging payloads to conduct infrared thermography surveys, detecting heat loss and insulation issues in industrial facilities.
  • EnerTherm Engineering analyzes the thermal data to identify hotspots, insulation failures, and equipment overheating, contributing to energy loss.

2. Airborne LiDAR Surveys:

  • AAI Drones use Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology to create precise 3D models of industrial facilities.
  • EnerTherm Engineering interprets the LiDAR data to identify structural inefficiencies, areas of heat loss, and potential points of thermal leakage. This method is particularly useful for mapping large areas quickly and accurately.

Measuring Dangerous Emitting Gases

AAI Drones also offers the capability to measure dangerous emitting gases using advanced payload technology. This enables the detection of airborne pollutants, ensuring compliance with environmental regulations and contributing to a safer environment.

Alternative Surveys for Dangerous Gas Emission Measurement

1. Onboard Gas Detection Payloads:

  • AAI Drones are equipped with specialized payloads designed for gas detection. These payloads can measure concentrations of various hazardous gases such as methane, carbon monoxide, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
  • EnerTherm Engineering utilizes the data collected by these payloads to identify emission sources and provide actionable recommendations for mitigation.

2. Spectroscopic Methods:

  • AAI Drones employ spectroscopic techniques such as Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy and Laser Absorption Spectroscopy for accurate and real-time gas detection.
  • EnerTherm Engineering interprets the spectroscopic data to identify and quantify trace amounts of hazardous gases, ensuring safety and regulatory compliance.

Benefits of EnerTherm Engineering’s Collaboration with AAI Drones

Energy Loss Detection:

  • Identify and address energy loss issues in buildings and industrial infrastructures.
  • Reduce operational costs by pinpointing inefficiencies.

Maximize Solar PV Efficiency:

  • Ensure existing solar panels are functioning optimally.
  • Detect and rectify connection issues and malfunctioning cells.

Pollutant Measurement:

  • Monitor and measure dangerous emitting gases.
  • Maintain environmental compliance and enhance safety.


To address the identified issues and ensure long-term efficiency, we recommend:

  • Routine Maintenance: Implement regular cleaning schedules to remove dust and debris.
  • Follow-up Inspections: Conduct semi-annual thermal analyses and visual inspections to monitor and maintain IR uniformity.
  • Physical Inspections: Verify the integrity of all connection points, especially those not visible in the drone survey.


EnerTherm Engineering’s collaboration with AAI Drones offers unparalleled solutions for optimizing solar panel efficiency, detecting thermal losses, and ensuring environmental compliance through advanced drone technology. AAI Drones’ advanced technology provides precise and detailed assessments, enabling timely interventions to sustain energy production, reduce costs, and ensure environmental safety.

For more information on AAI Drones’ services and how they can help you achieve your net zero goals, visit AAI Drones’ drone survey services or contact us directly.

Optimize your energy assets with EnerTherm Engineering and AAI Drones.

Picture of Francois Pierrel
Francois Pierrel
Hi, my name is François and I am passionate about solving process engineering problems. Over the years, I have developed a number of process equipment and control systems which have had a significant impact on reducing energy usage, waste and impact on the environment. My business ethos is to always get to the root cause of problems and data analysis and modelling are always at the forefront of any project we undertake.

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