FAQ

Solar Inspections

No, we will simply turn up as weather permits and as per schedule, then you will receive an emailed report when the job has been completed. Our service is extremely convenient for our customers.

Did you get what you paid for? Is your system only functioning at partial capacity? How do you know? With all the recent news about Australia being the world’s dumping ground for cheap Chinese knock-off solar panels, do you take the installers word for it? You’ve spent a lot of money on your new asset and with the cost of energy in South Australia being amongst the highest in the world, it’s is a very good idea to have an “independent commissioning inspection” done.  Most installers do not actually test all the panels once installed. They virtually plug everything in, check that current is flowing to your inverter and that’s good enough, the system is working. Our inspection will hold installers accountable and our report will assist with warrantee claims or insurance. Our inspection will reveal if the high-quality solar cells you bought are actually working as they should and maximise your return on investment. Sometimes solar panels are damaged in shipping and it’s not obvious to the installer. It’s a ‘peace of mind’ inspection that can be done very economically.

Thermal imagery from altitude can quickly and efficiently detect hotspots or shorts that are a fire risk to your home. Thermal inspections reveal and identify problems with individual cells, whole panels or any array that the human eye cannot see. Traditionally, testing this equipment is very time consuming and difficult to access once installed.

We look for hot spots and heat signatures of the energy being lost from your system. When photovoltaic (PV) cells fail to transfer solar energy into electricity, it is dissipated as heat. With our high-end thermal sensors, we can easily see this heat loss.

We also look for cracks and water leaks that can cause electrical shorts, heat, corrosion and even fires.

Over time, trees grow and can cause shading for a significant part of the day. We can identify and report on this change with our periodic or annual inspections.

No, not really! What we can do is determine or identify that there is a fault but to diagnose why there is a fault from a thermal image is not really possible. If a fault is identified, then a quick follow up visit from one of our qualified electricians/technicians should be made. Especially if there is a risk of fire.  Various faults can be identified including inactive or half inactive cells or panels, low performance due to dirty panels, bird fowling, shade, water leaks and even some manufacturing faults.

Yes of course, an inspection will show us that the all the panels are producing energy or not. Every panel that is faulty is representing a major energy loss over a given period of time because it affects the entire rows performance and is costing you hard earned money when your next power bill comes in.

Yes, we can 99% of the time. All DronePro pilots are commercially licensed UAV pilots accredited by CASA (Civil Aviation Safety Authority). This means we will need to apply for special permission to fly in this busy airspace and inspect your solar panels. Unfortunately, this will attract CASA application and processing fees as well as more time (approx. 1 – 4 weeks extra depending how busy they are). 

Heavy handling during the manufacturing, transportation and installation process.

Storm damage from hail stones. Water damage or moisture getting in to the photovoltaic cells via small cracks will cause corrosion the panels and rapidly degrade.

Heavy dust and dirt covering panels that have been left unattended for some time.

General

Absolutely, here are some of the more common definitions.

CASA

Civil Aviation Safety Authority; Australia’s aviation regulator.

Drone

An increasingly popular term for UAVs often used in a military context.

UAV

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle or Drone.

RePL

The Remote Pilot’s Licence (RePL) enables operators to operate commercially under an authority of a RPA Operating Certificate (ReOC).

UAS

Unmanned Aerial System; introduced to improve on the term ‘UAV’ as it is inclusive of all the components which contribute to the flight

ReOC

RPA (Remote Pilot Aircraft) Operators Certificate. A ReOC is the MOST important document which allows a RePL holder to conduct commercial operations. A RePL is just your individual permission to fly. If you hold a RePL, then you need be employed by someone who holders the ReOC.

Pilot in Command

The member of the flight team who is responsible for directing the flight and operating the camera equipment

VLOS

Visual Line of Sight

BVLOS

Beyond Visual Line of Sight

Gimbal

A gimbal is the mount where the camera sits enabling it to move along multiple axes and be positioned with a remote control.

LiPo

LiPo stands for Lithium Polymer and is the type of battery used by the majority of drone manufacturers as it is lightweight with good charge capacity and power.

Pitch

This is the up and down movement of the UAV on a vertical axis, encompassing from the front to the back of the UAV.

Roll

This is the rotation of the UAV from nose to its tail including all movements forwards, backwards and left to right along the horizontal axis. To prevent crashing the yaw, pitch and roll of a UAV needs to be kept as stable as possible.

RPAS

Remotely Piloted Aerial System; one of the newer terms used to define UAV systems

Yaw

Yaw is the rotation of a UAV in relation to the centre axis. Looking down on a drone from above, the yaw would be the movement of the drone, clockwise/anti-clockwise.

Popular Terms within the Survey & Mapping Industry

DEM

Digital Elevation Model – most of the time used as a generic term for DSMs and DTM but is essentially a ‘bare earth’ elevation model, unmodified from its original data source (such as lidar, ifsar, or an autocorrelated photogrammetric surface)

DSM

Digital Surface Model is a DEM of the earth surface including objects on it such as buildings and trees so it will include the tops of buildings, trees, powerlines, and any other objects – it only ‘sees’ ground where there is nothing else overtop of it.

DTM

Digital Terrain Model is a DEM of the earth surface without any objects in it

GIS

A GIS is a computer-based tool or information system that enables the capture, processing, organisation, analysis and presentation of geographic data i.e. mapping and organising data. The system generally comprises the software, hardware and applications required for these tasks along with the necessary data.

LIDAR

Light detection and ranging -Usually by using airborne laser scan technology (LIDAR), the surface of the earth can be scanned to generate a DSM with accuracies down to the centimetre range. This technique involves shooting a laser beam from an aerial platform and measuring the time it takes to reflect back to the sensor.

Orthophoto

An orthophoto is created from images using photogrammetric procedures and provides distortion-free, true-to-scale images of the surface of the earth.

Photogrammetry

Photogrammetry is a technique which uses photography to extract measurements of the environment. This is achieved through the use of overlapping imagery; where the same feature can be seen from two perspectives it is possible to calculate measurements.

Remote Sensing

Remote sensing is the process of making measurements of the earth using sensors on UAVs or other platforms. These sensors collect data in the form of images and have the capability for manipulating, analysing, and visualising those images. Remote sensed imagery is then integrated within a GIS.

SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar)

Similarly to LiDAR, SAR measures the time taken for a pulse of radar to return to the sensor after reflecting off the earth’s surface.

Spatial Analysis

Spatial analysis is a set of techniques for analysing spatial data. It is the process of examining the locations, attributes, and relationships of features in spatial data through overlay and other analytical techniques. Spatial analysis extracts or creates new information from spatial data.

Topographic Survey

Topographic Surveys are used to locate and map the contours of the ground and existing features on the surface of the earth or slightly above or below the earth’s surface (i.e. trees, buildings, streets, walkways, manholes, utility poles, retaining walls, etc.).

Clients who haven’t used a UAV before are often concerned about the level of accuracy that can be achieved, we can assure you that UAVs can offer the most spatially accurate aerial survey data currently available.  The error of our extracted survey points can get down to around 9mm in height and 6mm in plan with good ground control, and specialised post-processing techniques. For most land surveys we generally work to around 40mm in height and 30mm in plan. The cost of these surveys per unit area does vary and so the higher accuracy you require the more it will cost. It is therefore a good idea to understand what you are trying to achieve and the tolerances you need to achieve it.

Yes, our LiDAR unit is able to penetrate the tree canopy

Photogrammetry is the science of making precise measurements from photographs. We are able produce photographs at a far higher resolution than can typically be achieved with traditional aircraft based aerial surveys and from these produce a variety of data products including 3D building models. The result is similar to that produced by laser scans but at a fraction of the cost.

Yes, we have some experience doing this. Please let us know the features you would like included in the survey.

Typical flight with our multi-copter platforms lasts between 15 and 25 minutes. However, these times vary depending on a variety of factors including the weather, flight characteristics and the camera system being carried. For example, a slow, low-level flight with a Skyjib 6 or 8 carrying the lightest camera would have a significantly longer flight time than when the UAV is carrying our heaviest camera in high winds and at high speeds.

Although these flight times may not seem like very much, in our experience they are easily long enough to enable us to achieve a great deal. We also carry with us a number of batteries which can be swapped over quickly enough in order to proceed with the flight almost immediately. Furthermore, we have on-site charging capabilities allowing us to always have enough batteries to be able to begin another flight.

Generally speaking we can fly in weather conditions with winds up to 17mph and no more than very light rain. This is due to the potential damage that this could do to the kit and the negative impact it could have on the quality of the photo. If there are adverse weather visibility conditions (e.g. fog/haze) we may need to alter our flight plan in order to maintain a line of sight with the UAV.

As ruled by the CASA, we are permitted to fly at heights of up to 400ft above ground level (approximately 120m), and at distances of 500m from the pilot (without applying for specific approvals and extra fees). This is in order to ensure the UAV stays in the pilot’s line of sight. We monitor the UAV’s altitude and distance from the pilot using telemetry information fed back to the pilot’s screen. This also streams to the pilot live video footage from the UAV, known as a first person view camera, which aids long distance navigation.

We also have the capability of long-range flights depending on your needs and lead times. Ask us how.

Yes this is possible. Sometimes extra permissions need to be sought when operating in a city. The cost of the survey can increase if it is in a complex area since most of the Cities are a restricted area and any aircraft, no matter how small has to submit a non-standard flight application requesting area approval to fly in these areas. This can take up to 21 days and permission is not guaranteed. Since the cities are congested areas this can limit the size of aircraft that can fly. As a result, working in the city is possible but it is essential to allow at least a month to organise the project.

Unfortunately, yes. As well as the constraints set out by the CASA to protect public privacy, there are certain airspaces across the country where we need permission from the relevant Air Traffic Control to fly. These areas are typically around airports and sites of military activity. We also need permission from the landowner for land we want to take-off or land on. For more information on the factors affecting where we can and cannot fly, please ask us.

Yes, we’re perfectly able to fly indoors.

Due to how much our work tends to vary in terms of timescale and data processing requirements, it is very difficult to quote a standard price for our jobs but we are always happy to offer a free no obligation quote. We are usually able to give you a rough estimate of costs in a quick phone call.

Please contact us to discuss your aerial surveying needs and we will supply you with a bespoke estimated quote for our services.

Safety

Yes – all our machines, cameras and data are insured and we have a $20 million public liability insurance policy.

We have a ReOC from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) which regulates aviation activity in Australia. This allows us to operate our UAVs commercially and perform aerial data acquisition. Furthermore, we always operate well within applicable legislation, including CASA regulations and the Data Protection Act. For more information on legal stipulations surrounding the use of UAVs, please see the CASA’s guidance at www.casa.gov.au

All of our pilots possess Commercial Remote Pilot Licence’s for multirotor and/or fix wing platforms (RePL). These qualifications have been granted to them by a CASA approved pilot assessment body. This qualification assesses the pilot’s competence regarding the knowledge necessary to become a commercial UAV pilot, including knowledge of aviation law, meteorological conditions and human factors which affect flight safety. To pass this they must also have passed a practical and UAV-specific flight assessment. In addition to this, all of the pilots have undergone systems training with the manufacturer and receive ongoing in-house training.

As well as our numerous procedures which reduce the likelihood of an accident, our systems all possess in-built emergency prevention features to minimise any damage in the unlikely event of an emergency. This includes low battery voltage alarms, motor redundancy and a return to home feature which, if contact with the radio controller is lost, allows the UAV to fly back to its take-off zone at a pre-defined height and land itself.

As we carry imaging equipment on our UAVs we must adhere to a number of regulations set out by the CASA to protect the privacy of the public and third parties. Australian privacy laws are contained in a variety of Commonwealth, State and Territory Acts. The “Privacy Acts” are data protection laws which regulate the collection, use and disclosure of personal information about individuals; they do not protect privacy of the individual in a broader sense. A variety of other legislation contains privacy protection provisions relevant to particular types of entities and/or practices, for example, the Spam Act, surveillance and listening devices acts, and many others.

The remainder of this page provides information about the Privacy Acts. For information about other privacy laws relevant to use of UAV’s, the Internet and other telecommunications systems, refer to the topic listing on EFA’s Privacy and Surveillance Page.

Contents

Privacy

As we carry imaging equipment on our UAVs we must adhere to a number of regulations set out by the CASA to protect the privacy of the public and third parties. Australian privacy laws are contained in a variety of Commonwealth, State and Territory Acts. The “Privacy Acts” are data protection laws which regulate the collection, use and disclosure of personal information about individuals; they do not protect privacy of the individual in a broader sense. A variety of other legislation contains privacy protection provisions relevant to particular types of entities and/or practices, for example, the Spam Act, surveillance and listening devices acts, and many others.

The remainder of this page provides information about the Privacy Acts. For information about other privacy laws relevant to use of UAV’s, the Internet and other telecommunications systems, refer to the topic listing on EFA’s Privacy and Surveillance Page.

Contents