I am Ridha Azaiz, Aerial Power’s CEO. Aerial Power Ltd is a company that is developing an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) – a drone - specifically designed for cleaning solar panels.
Drones and solar panels?
Aerial Power Ltd is first to introduce a drone-based method for the cleaning of solar panels. Our drones make their most significant contribution towards increasing the yield and viability of solar farms in arid regions of the world. The main factor in deteriorating panel efficiency is the build-up of dust on the surface of glass panels. And by keeping solar panels clean you can increase the yield and viability of solar farms.
I worked on robots for cleaning solar panels and when I realized the advance in drones and their flight times I recognized that drones could be the solution to bring a higher degree of automation to the maintenance of solar panels.
The challenges today?
In hot and arid regions, the maintenance costs of solar panels can be increased by up to 70%. We can reduce that significantly, and at the same time increase energy production by up to 30% per month.
Contribution of FIWARE?
FIWARE will enable us to implement connectivity of our drones to the Internet of Things. Specifically it will enable us to gather weather data from various locations and optimize the deployment of the drones with the weather forecast. The drones can therefore respond to a sand storm, after which a tremendous amount of solar power production would be lost.
Applying for INCENSe?
The network amongst European startups and entrepreneurs in the INCENSe programme was very attractive to us and has so far been very fruitful. For example we have met a pilot from Portugal who has provided us with insights into local drone regulations.
Outcomes so far
We have started a dialogue with Endesa – the feedback from a corporate company is of course very valuable to us. During the acceleration program we specifically appreciated the focus on the “MVP” (Minimum Viable Product), and the programme managers, as well as the other participating teams, are usually quick to respond to questions that we have had.
We receive many information requests from companies based in Asia and the Middle East. However, regulatory barriers remain an obstacle. This is primarily because drones are more commonly known for applications such as filming and inspection, but not yet for cleaning.
We finally have the funds and resources to advance the development of our drone to a stage that it can be deployed at the sites of a pilot customer.
Next 12 months?
We aim to have a pilot customer using our SolarBrush drone to clean their solar parks. From this we will build evidence to show that cleaning solar panels with our drone increases electricity production significantly, and at the same time saves on cleaning costs. This will be the driver to implement our solution across more solar plants.