afterFIT receives BVLOS approval for fully autonomous night time flights in Japan

FlytBase, an enterprise drone autonomy platform company, is proud to announce that its partner, afterFIT, a Japanese renewable energy firm, has received approval to fly autonomous drones Beyond Visual Line-of-Sight (BVLOS) at night, a first in Japan. The approval has been granted by the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism.

afterFIT has been conducting BVLOS inspections at their power plant (1,924KW) in Tochigi Prefecture from their Tokyo headquarters, which is approximately 200 kilometers away, using a modular system that includes DJI drones, low-cost docking station, and FlytNow Auto (a software product of FlytBase). The use of drones has enabled them to reduce the time it takes to inspect a MW from three hours to less than ten minutes.

How are autonomous drones assisting AfterFIT?
The following are the primary applications:

  • Inspection: AfterFit configures the drone to fly autonomously along a predetermined
    route scheduled on FlytNow, inspect solar panels, and live stream infrared video feed
    and images back to the command center. Each inspection round takes about 20
    minutes. Following data collection, AfterFIT’s in-house developed AI system
    generates power plant anomaly reports.

afterFIT has also been able to increase flight frequency by using drone docking stations. Solar power plants were previously only inspected four times a year; however, autonomous drones have allowed for more frequent inspections and early detection of damage.

  • Security: AfterFIT has been using autonomous drones for security purposes. When necessary, the drone flies to a suspected anomaly and alerts both management and any potential intruder. With the night-time BVLOS approval, it plans to further strengthen the security of the premises.
    Apart from automating routine solar panel inspections, AfterFIT has been using autonomous drones to solve three major problems specific to their region:
  • Reduce copper wire thefts: The Japanese government’s directive to double down on solar farms in order to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 has led to a massive increase in copper wire thefts. This raises the cost of replacements and reduces the capacity of electricity generation to account for the repair time.
  • Reduce workforce involvement: To compensate for Japan’s aging population, which has resulted in a significant shortage of skilled personnel, labor-saving measures are required and autonomous drones are a perfect-fit.
  • Reduce required capital: AfterFIT also needs to invest heavily in round-trip transportation of staff members to and from the site & ensure that two technicians are available within two hours of a potential mishap. The use of autonomous drones has allowed them to reduce costs.

To know more on how afterFIT is benefitting from autonomous drones, please read the following case study:

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