To maintain maximum efficiency, solar cells should be periodically cleaned of dust and other accumulated dirt.
However, many panels are installed in high or hard-to-reach places, making cleaning difficult, time-consuming and downright dangerous.
One solution is to use aerial drones to spray dirty solar panels with soapy water. However, these drones tend to run out of battery pretty quickly. In addition, they also do not come into direct contact with the panels, so they cannot completely remove dirt.
To solve these problems, a Belgian startup, ART Robotics, has developed HELIOS, an automatic solar panel cleaning service.
It is a completely self-contained system that can get into hard-to-reach places and eliminate dangerous and expensive jobs.
The system consists of autonomous cleaning robots that can move autonomously on the panels. They are placed in the solar installation by means of a drone platform.
The drone uses its computer vision to detect the photovoltaic array and pilots the robot to the exact spot.
The HELIOS cleaning robot is a lightweight robot that can autonomously clean photovoltaic solar panels. An innovative traction system allows the robot to move along inclined surfaces and even cross adjacent panels, cleaning them thoroughly using a combination of brush and vacuum cleaner.
When the job is done, the robot transmits a wireless signal to the drone. The drone flies to the roof, picks up the robot and brings it back to the ground. This whole process is done automatically, but the operator will still be available for manual monitoring and control if needed.
ART Robotics is currently seeking funding for the HELIOS system on Kickstarter. For a commitment of at least 120 euros (about $132), customers in Belgium can benefit from the company’s Home Pack, which includes cleaning up to 20 solar panels with the Helios system. The expected sale price for this one is 150 euros ($166).
More information: www.art-robotics.com