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Residential solar thermal inspection?

rondawes

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So, I'm considering making a first step into the thermal imaging market by targeting residential solar installation inspections. Why residential? Well, sure I'd love to work on a 20MW solar farm but there are not that many of those and it's likely that most are already under contract with inspection firms or have in-house programs. There are zillions of residential solar installations that have been around for long enough to need inspections to assure they are still performing correctly. Secondly, stepping up to commercial warehouse, schools, thermal roof inspections, etc work after getting experience and a portfolio in residential seems to make sense to me (at the moment). It would seem the upcoming M2EA with a 640x512 radiometric sensor would be a reasonably economical first aircraft for the purpose. I just wish it had a FLIR sensor so I could use the FLIR toolset instead of the toy-like DJI thermal tool. Anyway, FYI, I have Part 107, a Level 1 Thermographer cert from long ago (pre UAS), a private pilot license, an engineering degree from long, long ago, and live in a major metro area. Thoughts? Anyone else doing similar? Thanks!
 

Heed

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Seems like a decent initial goal and looked up the drone specs/cost - not too bad. IR/Thermal is an area I would like to expand into, but I am just getting started. It's been a bit of journey and it was spurred along by the 'ro.

Started researching in April and somewhere through the summer I came up with the company name, logo, LLC registration, domain, etc. Purchased a M2P in October and set about learning to fly, edit videos, etc.

For me, my business model (rough framework really) was real estate, marketing, construction and perhaps visual inspections (roofing, etc.). I have a full time job, sort of currently, that is paying the bills with more free time (making less of course). So I can play around with my business and business model. I don't need to make money, but that is a desired end state.

Barring get hooked up with high end realty or mass volume "regular" stuff, I am not expecting that to be a significant revenue source. Realtors are cheap I learned, hence the volume required. I would also be more marketable if I did both the aerial and indoor stuff. Not sure I want to invest more money at this point on ground based stabilized camera. But, I am offering the services and will see where it leads at this point.

Marketing, construction and visual inspections I think have better potential.

Not sure where you are in your journey, but I do have two things to point out I learned along the way.

1) Since you are looking at specifically inspections, the DJI drone may be limiting to growing your overall business model.

I don't think residential will be an issue and not likely commercial. If you start looking at state level or federal property, that may become more problematic. It all started in 2017 as I understand it when the US Army ceased all use of DJI products. I suspect US Intell discovered data flowing back to China. Shocker. In the following years, Congress brought about bipartisan legislation (also a shocker) that basically bans their use at the federal level and bans using federal funds to purchase them. Supposedly DJI has rectified any issues, but I don't see the feds changing that stance.

There were some non-chineese drones, but I stuck with the DJI because it was just the better product IMHO with a HUGE user base. My initial business model didn't really require a non-DJI product. I can always buy one too.

I haven't spent anymore time digging into this issue since looking at this aspect last spring as I made the decision to stick with DJI.

You could certainly start with the DJI and purchase something else down the line. But, I would make sure that you aren't going to hit any roadblocks on that front in your area starting out with the DJI drone.

2) I purchased the Smart Controller. Overall, I really like it. Biggest drawback is that is not as easy to load 3rd party apps, especially automation apps for mapping/pre-programmed inspection routes. In reviewing the M2EA page, I was excited to see a shot of the SC with an App called PILOT that appeared to have routing functionality. Alas, it was just for the Enterprise Mavic. If you are going to go with the SC, you might read up on the Pilot App functionality to make sure it meets your needs. If not, probably better to go with the standard controller where you can easily install the apps for that functionality. Not really an issue for you, per se, but others might be reading this thread too and benefit from that. I am not saying you can't load those apps on a SC, just that it isn't as easy or straight forward. Some folks have had issues getting them to run properly, etc.

I am admittedly new to this field, so if I am off the mark anywhere on my two concerns above - I am sure someone will be quick to point it out. I am all ears as I learn along this journey. It's been fun and helped me put my extra free time to good use.
 

Florida Drone Supply

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Raptor Maps is a great analytical group for large commercial operations but residential is easier done by just using the raw images I would think. The new M2EA has a 640 resolution and it is radiometric so you can compare images to a known value.

We should have these in stock soon and once we do Raptor Maps will be doing a study with the M2EA. Stay tuned.

Mike D
 

Hawkwind

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@rondawes How are things progressing in the business? I am also interested in doing some side jobs to pay for the gear if nothing else. I got my 107 initially to do SAR.
 

dougcjohn

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1) Since you are looking at specifically inspections, the DJI drone may be limiting to growing your overall business model.

I don't think residential will be an issue and not likely commercial. If you start looking at state level or federal property, that may become more problematic. It all started in 2017 as I understand it when the US Army ceased all use of DJI products. I suspect US Intell discovered data flowing back to China. Shocker. In the following years, Congress brought about bipartisan legislation (also a shocker) that basically bans their use at the federal level and bans using federal funds to purchase them. Supposedly DJI has rectified any issues, but I don't see the feds changing that stance.

There were some non-chineese drones, but I stuck with the DJI because it was just the better product IMHO with a HUGE user base. My initial business model didn't really require a non-DJI product. I can always buy one too.

I haven't spent anymore time digging into this issue since looking at this aspect last spring as I made the decision to stick with DJI.
Not directly related to OP's focus, but wanted to throw in comment on Fed side of DJI and Chinese bans. The Congress had legislation on bans, but was recently voted down... didn't pass. The Military initiated some bans, but not blanket... continues to purchase DJI product and the proposed date to enforce hasn't occurred yet... and may not now.

Many State and Prvt Businesses jumped on the DJI ban... maybe to get a head start or other reasons. Those bans are independent of Federal Bans not enacted.

I fail to see this having any teeth over time. Maybe for common platform models, but DJI competitively offers a very wide spectrum of products including large heavy payload platforms to Ag spraying platforms that other companies lack or several times the investment.

On Op's question... the XT2 Full Radiometric remains the King when considering Flir Tools and Platforms, Apps, and specialized products for IR and SAR. The M2EA and EVO 2 640T share the same non-DJI sensor... SW tools are improving. That is a problem, the small platforms meet the needs in many ways, fall short in a few... but they should meet more wirh time & SW versions... not far out.
 
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Heed

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Not directly related to OP's focus, but wanted to throw in comment on Fed side of DJI and Chinese bans. The Congress had legislation on bans, but was recently voted down... didn't pass. The Military initiated some bans, but not blanket... continues to purchase DJI product and the proposed date to enforce hasn't occurred yet... and may not now.

Many State and Prvt Businesses jumped on the DJI ban... maybe to get a head start or other reasons. Those bans are independent of Federal Bans not enacted.

I fail to see this having any teeth over time. Maybe for common platform models, but DJI competitively offers a very wide spectrum of products including large heavy payload platforms to Ag spraying platforms that other companies lack or several times the investment.
Thanks for the update on the congressional action and DJI.
 
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