Drone Usage for Renewable Energy Development and Maintenance

The use of drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), dates back to 1849. Austria invaded Venice, sending human-contactless balloons over the city, which contained explosive materials. Advancements in drone technology allow for continued military utilization, as well as commercial and civilian use.

Drones recently joined the environmental industry, providing promising future aid to renewable energy development and maintenance. The small ascending computers can provide us with unique images of Earth, as natural TV programs show us. Drones may use their imaging abilities to survey and map the land and detect renewable energy system issues. They can also produce their own energy and limit package delivery emissions. Read on to know about the use of drones in renewable energy sector:

Surveying and Mapping

When evaluating potential renewable energy sites, like solar and wind farms, it is essential to calculate possible interference. Drones can move throughout these regions collecting data on wind currents, sun exposure, and the ecosystem. This system is integrated into the agricultural industry with light detection and ranging sensors (Lidar) attached to drones.

Renewable power companies use this system to survey and map energy sites. Like the Quantum Trinity F90+, popular commercial UAVs can reduce the time and greenhouse gases used in traditional land mapping practices. These devices can fly for 90-minute periods and track large regions of land.

Issue Detection

Once renewable energy systems are in place, drone use continues. Wind turbines benefit greatly from UAV intervention.

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Most turbines reach heights of 280 feet to allow for maximum wind capture. Unfortunately, this poses severe problems for maintenance workers. In the U.K., 163 workers suffered injuries while repairing wind power devices, and five workers died.

UAVs can reach heights of 400 feet, allowing them to evaluate issues safely and effectively. These detection methods are less expensive for renewable energy companies and enable workers to plan more efficient repairs. One can also use drones to detect solar panel problems.

Solar companies use UAVs to detect panel malfunctions from the ground. To increase the sustainability of this practice, companies can send drones to panel sites without workers present. This would further reduce greenhouse gas emissions by limiting the transportation process associated with maintenance.

Renewable Energy Drone Production

A recent development in the UAV industry allows drones to fuel themselves using wind power. The Saildrone is a device that harnesses its energy from small propellers, similar to the head of a wind turbine. Scientists are currently using them to collect and relay oceanic data, but their abilities are expanding.

Wind power-converting drones may act as a sustainable alternative to wind turbines. The UAVs in production fly in circular patterns with a kite attached. This maximizes the efficiency of wind capturing.

The energy would reach the Earth’s surface through an extended power cable, which is less environmentally disruptive than a turbine. The materials utilized in building a wind energy drone are less disruptive to the planet and require less greenhouse gas emissions in production.

Solar Delivery Drones

In 2013, Amazon revealed its idea to utilize drones to deliver packages efficiently. These UAVs would reportedly fly boxes to your doorstep in under 30 minutes, depending on your region. The incorporation of drones into the delivery industry could significantly reduce carbon emissions, preserving the atmosphere.

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With renewable energy-powered delivery UAVs, truck-induced air pollution, traffic congestion, and roadkill could decrease. Limiting these environmental harms can conserve the environment and increase biodiversity on Earth. You may ask yourself, “So, where are my sustainably delivered packages?”

Drone Regulations

The reason that, eight years later, we are still waiting for our drone-delivered Amazon purchases has to do with strict aircraft regulations. Each year, the U.S. government releases new guidelines for commercial UAV use. These regulations restrict further drone use by the renewable energy industry.

Restrictions on flying heights, speed, weight, certifications, site navigation, and more limit one’s ability to use UAVs for sustainability purposes. Innovators are working to develop green drone uses, but it will take time before they reach the commercial market. As their safety and abilities increase, the use of drones in renewable energy sector will grow at a rapid pace.

How to Reduce the Ecological Footprint of Wind Turbines

Wind power is the second most widely used renewable energy source in the U.S., just behind hydropower. Unlike solar, wind power creates little to no pollution and requires very little maintenance. However, it has one significant problem — a detrimental effect on wildlife and the local ecosystem.

Industrial wind farms wreak havoc on bird and bat populations, plus they pose an ecological disturbance to the land. While the energy generation is incredibly sustainable, the influence turbines have on local wildlife populations adds controversy to the success of this energy source.

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The future implementation of wind as a leading source of energy will depend on our ability to reduce its ecological footprint. Employing best practices that work to minimize adverse effects on local habitats will play an integral role in the construction of new farms.

Analyze Data

Determining the exact impact of wind turbines on wildlife is hard to discern. The number of birds and bats killed from direct contact is only one variable. The long-term effects on food chain supplies, population and habitats are hard to quantify. The first step in reducing the environmental impact is determining where the influence is greatest.

Research estimates that in North America alone, wind turbines kill an estimated 140,000 to 328,000 birds each year. This statistic does include other flying creatures, like bats, whose populations have been significantly affected by wind farms.

Bats are essential to the function of our ecosystem and food system. In 2015, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) added guidelines about the voluntary process of halting turbines at lower speeds during periods of the night when these animals are most active. These efforts may reduce deaths by up to 30%, though research demonstrates an extra delay could potentially increase that number to 90%.

Land Use Planning

Close attention to site selection and preparation may curtail the consequences of wind farms on the surrounding environment. Construction is a major ecosystem disruptor, as installing transmission lines and removing soil can hurt plants and animals in the vicinity. Experts encourage many wind companies to engage in erosion control practices, which includes re-establishing native vegetation and other restoration techniques.

Wind farms are generally criticized by their inflexibility when it comes to site location. Compared to solar panels, which can be installed on buildings and utilized across a diverse array of environments, wind farms are more limited. One benefit, however, is that people can establish these turbines on abandoned industrial land. The ability to re-purpose previously degraded land with a renewable energy source is a victory for wildlife and humans alike.

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If the wind is too strong, wind turbines can’t operate safely and must shut down.

A final consideration when it comes to reducing ecological impact includes preventative measures, such as monitoring a habitat before construction. By tracking the environment before breaking ground, builders can better determine the best location for the farm.

Innovative Technology

As wind power becomes a cost-effective and energy-efficient option, advanced technology will lessen the impact of turbines on wildlife. According to U.S Energy Information Administration, the wind industry is collaborating with the U.S government to find optimization solutions.

Several ways exist in which wind farms can reduce their impact on local habitats and take preventative steps affecting animal and bird populations. One example includes Ultrasonic Acoustic Deterrents (UADs), which emit a loud noise that deters bats but is incomprehensible to the human ear.

Other solutions include painting wind turbines purple or shining ultraviolet lights on the structures to alert migratory species. Some manufacturing companies plan to make innovations in how to construct these structures. Changes include alterations to the blade surfaces and more sound-absorbent materials.

A Comprehensive Approach

The cost of wind power has dropped almost 50% in the last four years. With an increased incentive to invest in renewables, experts predict the number of wind farms around the world to grow rapidly in the next decade.

Wind power has many benefits, one of which being that, unlike solar, return on investment for the production and installation of turbines is five to eight months, with each structure designed to produce for at least twenty years. With an increase in implementation, the ecological impact is unavoidable. As a result, the focus will be on reducing the footprint of wind turbines, rather than decreasing their utilization as an energy source.