Solar Roofs Drone Gallery
July 16, 2020

In 2019, Solar Design Engineer Marc Kollar launched the drone program at Sun Light & Power. The aerial photography platform has greatly expedited retrofit site surveys, increased field safety, and improved engineering accuracy and efficiency. The drone program has also produced an invaluable video and still image library for marketing. Our adoption of this new technology has placed Sun Light & Power at the forefront of a rapidly evolving industry. Marc’s proactive approach, meticulous training, and disciplined piloting have created a highly successful program.

Marc Kollar Solar DroneAfter three years with Sungevity, Marc joined Sun Light & Power in January 2018. By mid-year, drone technology had come up on his radar. His long-time love of photography and expertise in solar PV design inspired him to educate himself, take the lead, and develop a new process at Sun Light & Power. After about 50 hours of study, Marc passed the FAA’s Part 107 written Airman Knowledge Test with the highest score that his examiner had ever seen. He subsequently passed an FAA background check in order to receive his Part 107 Certification, which allows him to fly sUAS (small unmanned aircraft systems) commercially. Part 107 covers national airspace, regulations, and operating rules. However, to acquire the necessary experience to confidently pilot the drone, Marc spent many hours conducting practice flights. To master his craft, he also reviewed over 100 hours of video and text regarding all aspects of drone mapping and video/photo capture techniques. Marc has developed a disciplined protocol to ensure the safety and success of every mission. His pre-flight preparations include: airspace planning (obtaining airspace authorization where required), weather forecasting, environment reviews, creating shot lists, gear preparation, and pre-flight inspections. During the flight Marc maintains critical situational awareness with the help of a visual observer to safely and efficiently capture all of the data.

Sun Light & Power’s drone program has dramatically improved the way the field and engineering handle retrofit projects. In the past, site surveys were performed by a superintendent (often accompanied by an assistant) who had to manually measure and record rooftop dimensions. This process was very time consuming and often required considerable safety precautions on high and/or pitched roofs. Moreover, the data had to be translated into a CAD drawing by engineering, which was time consuming and prone to error. In sharp contrast, Marc’s drone mapping approach has reduced roof survey time by an average of 75% and engineering intake time by an average of 65%. These benefits have been accompanied by increased safety for our team members, higher drawing accuracy and significantly lower costs. Sun Light & Power’s drone program bolsters our commitment to deliver “Exceptional Customer Experience.”

In a short time, Marc has produced a remarkable library of high quality videos and photographs for Marketing. We no longer need to contract expensive helicopter-based photographers who cannot replicate the detail and clarity captured during drone fly-overs. Moreover, Marc continues to apply his extensive video and photo editing skills to the content, which has given us complete control over its use and saved us considerable time and money compared to using outside consultants. His keen eye is responsible for most of our best website and YouTube content as well as a growing number of videos and images used elsewhere by our sales and marketing teams.

Marc is a great example of having the right person in the right seat — at the right time. As a Design Engineer and Head of Drone Operations, Marc said “I love this work because it incorporates my passions for PV system design, photography, and technology. Drone tech and photogrammetry software have been game changers in the constructon industry. It’s exciting to be on the forefront of this emerging industry.” Marc continues to study the latest drone developments and will no doubt be ready for his FAA recertification, which is required every two years. Unsurprisingly, all of Marc’s missions have been successful and completed with a single site visit. The employee owners at Sun Light & Power are delighted to have Marc at the controls as we move forward in this exciting new era for PV and solar thermal design.

Seamas Brennan is Marketing Coordinator at Sun Light & Power. Drone photography by Marc Kollar.

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