- The electrical output of solar panels is reduced when dust covers the panels, but the air movement produced by a flying drone can be used to remove this debris. This research project will study the effectiveness of a quadcopter drone in dusting a solar panel. A solar panel was covered with ground silica (simulating Oregon topsoil) or wood ash and positioned at an angle of 45° or 61°, respectively, from the vertical. The drone flew over the soiled solar panel by passing over it or hovering over it at a low (two to three feet) and high height (five to six feet). For every ten seconds that the drone was hovering over the solar panel, the same output increase could be obtained in about four seconds of time spent passing over the solar panel. The drone’s rotorwash (downward air displacement) was most impactful in improving solar panel output when the drone was made to pass over the solar panel, as opposed to hovering over the solar panel. In terms of material, wood ash was easier to remove from the solar panel than the ground silica. If a 2% improvement in voltage output results in valuable revenue loss prevention, and the savings generated by this loss prevention can payback for the initial investment into the drone, then the decision to invest in a drone to dust solar panels is worthwhile.
- Key Words: rotorwash, quadcopter drone, photovoltaic, solar panel performance, dust cleaning