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Percepto, pioneering autonomous inspection by industrial robotics, announced the successful completion of a proof-of-concept (POC) with the Electric Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) for the monitoring of a 250-acre floating solar farm, one of the largest of its kind in the world.
The size of 70 soccer fields and located 350m from the nearest shoreline, the solar farm is on the Sirindhorn dam basin in Southeastern Thailand, consisting of seven sections floating on buoys. Partnering with Top Engineering Corporation, a Thai drone consultancy and equipment provider, Percepto AIM software and Percepto Air drone-in-a-box will enable autonomous routine inspections of panels and other equipment to ensure proper operation and detect anomalies before they turn into bigger issues.
Joining Thailand’s electrical grid last October, the $34 million project reflects the country’s push to achieve carbon neutral status by 2050 with 145,000 solar panels harnessing power from the sun during the day and converting energy from flowing water at night. The country is seeking to use more renewable energy sources and reduce its reliance on natural gas, the current largest source for electricity generation.
Given the solar farm’s size and distance from land, equipment inspection and maintenance are cumbersome. Without drones, inspection staff would need to access the panel by boat to manually review the panels or go offshore to simply launch a drone that could provide a visual inspection. Inspectors also face obstacles due to weather conditions such as extreme heat, rain and fog. Percepto drone-in-box is a robust system that was the first to pass Level 5 hurricane testing at wind speeds of up to 155 mph, and is sturdy enough to handle the heat and humidity of Thailand’s tropical climate.
Percepto’s automated drones will provide regular operations and maintenance reports, map the location of the panel, and perform inspections of substations, transformers, floating fences and solar floaters which hold the panel above water. When an anomaly is detected, workers can know the exact problem, and where it is located. While one person must be in the vicinity of the panel for regulatory reasons, the inspection can be conducted remotely from Bangkok, more than 600 km away from the dam.
“We are very excited to partner with EGAT and Top Engineering Corporation on this unique and environmentally sustainable electricity project,” said Percepto Co-founder and CEO Dor Abuhasira. “Autonomous drones are strengthening the sustainable positioning of renewable energy facilities to achieve global climate targets. With Percepto drones, solar farms such as EGAT can be consistently monitored and inspected regardless of their size or location to further unleash the potential of renewable energy sources.”
“This project illustrates the breadth of our unique capabilities as countries explore innovative solutions in their push to reduce their reliance on traditional energy sources. We’re looking forward to full drone deployment and working with EGAT and Top Engineering to leverage the many benefits of our platform,” adds Ehud Ollech, Head Of Business Development and Partnerships.
“Percepto drones will dramatically improve the consistency at which the panel provides customers with electricity, how quickly repairs are made, and the safety level of our employees,” said EGAT Chief, Fuel Business Development Department, Chanapan Kongnam. “Rather than sending out staff to inspect the panel, we will deploy inspections much more frequently than could be achieved manually. Staff are only sent out when repairs are necessary and they will know the nature of the problem and where it will be located to spend as little time on the water as possible.”
“We applaud Thailand for its innovation and commitment to developing sustainable energy sources,” said Top Engineering Managing Director, Kornnarong Tungfung. “By deploying autonomous drones powered by AI technology, Thai solar farms will be continuously observed for a variety of factors to ensure they consistently generate electricity for the people of Thailand.”