Drone-based monitoring and optimisation of solar power plants

Drone-assisted characterisation of the optical and thermal properties of solar power plants is the most efficient method of detecting weaknesses in operational systems and identifying measures to improve their performance. DLR has developed a system – QFly – specifically for service providers and plant operators that enables the characterisation of CSP plants. QFly delivers highly precise data for geometric checking, tracking and heat losses in CSP plants. These data are used as a basis for acceptance tests, quality control and optimisation of operations and maintenance of solar power plants. Validation against independent benchmarks has shown that QFly is currently the most advanced system for the optical characterisation of CSP plants. The system received the SolarPACES Technology Award 2018*.

A variety of methods are available depending on the objective. QFly SURVEY approach enables rapid characterisation of the entire power plant in just a few hours, delivering information about the concentrator geometry and tracking. QFly HIGH RESOLUTION mode provides accurate and high-resolution results on the concentrator geometry for small parts of the solar field. QFly THERMO uses infrared radiation to provide information about thermal losses. In addition, QFly can be used to monitor power plants and their components.

Among other things, the results are geo-referenced and displayed with an adjustable degree of detail in Google Earth. In order to enable worldwide use, there is a clearly defined interface between data acquisition and processing.

Current research and development activities aim to add heat transfer fluid leakage detection as well as measurements of soiling levels. A project funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) is seeking to extend the application area to CSP tower power plants. In addition, the measurement technology will be adapted for PV power plants, especially to enable future optimisation of CSP/PV hybrid plants.

 * Note by the authors:
SolarPACES is a IEA Technology Collaboration Programme. SolarPACES is the leading international network of researchers into thermal solar for dispatchable power and solar chemistry technologies.

German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Anne Schlierbach · E-Mail: anne.schlierbach@dlr.de · DLR.de