Renewable energy is a critical development industry for South Africa. As the national power grid struggles to meet demand alternative sources of sustainable electricity are seen as a potential solution. Wind turbines and solar farms have seen rapid expansion over the past two decades. Critical to this rapid expansion is accurate meteorological data. Each wind or solar farm represents an investment of millions of rands. Placing these farms in areas with inadequate annual wind or sunshine is something all renewable energy companies want to avoid.
Meteorological masts have therefore become indispensable for collecting accurate weather data on the proposed sites of new farms. These masts are huge and mostly tower well above 100 meters. Given the need for sensitive data collection equipment on these towers, regular maintenance is critical. This maintenance will usually consist of a three man rope access technician team that must climb up the tower. Manually inspecting each piece of meteorological equipment could take a whole week. On top of the time constraints there are also safety concerns that must be monitored as these technicians operate at 100 meters above the ground, in strong wind conditions.
A height of 100 or 140 meters makes no difference to the M300 industrial drone of Darkwing Aerials. We were approached by a company that is responsible for the inspection & maintenance of multiple meteorological masts across South Africa. They wanted to see how our drones could speed up their inspection procedures, traditionally done via rope access, and reduce safety risks for their technicians.They presented us with two 140 meter high masts in the Western Cape region. They would require visual inspections of every piece of equipment on the mast as well as a full structural analysis. We decided to utilize the powerful P1 45 megapixel camera and LiDAR scanning to gather the required data.
Our M300 drone used the P1 camera to meticulously capture each piece of monitoring equipment on the mast. Smaller details like bolts and guy wire-mounts were also captured in high definition images. These images allowed our client’s engineers to write a detailed report on the current state of the mast’s equipment. The final stage was using a LiDAR unit to laser scan the entire mast structure. This allowed Darkwing to recreate the mast in a 3D point cloud. The twist of the mast structure and the height of each piece of equipment could then be measured with extreme accuracy. And all of this was done in less than half a day.
With over 10 years of experience, we provide expert, bespoke drone solutions to our clients.