SOLAR farms are warming to a service developed in Colchester.

Stanway-based Above Surveying uses drones to report and monitor faults on solar farms across the country.

The drones, with their thermal imaging cameras, fly up and down the miles of solar panel arrays on each farm. By noting temperature changes on the solar panels, they can quickly find faults.

Typically, such work is done using staff on the ground, but the drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, are said to be faster and more efficient.

Will Hitchcock, managing director of Above Surveying, said: “The drones fly along the solar panels and report back to the solar panel owners any faults they find.

“We have inspected 50 to 60 solar farms across the UK, in Wales, Cornwall and much of the South West where solar farms are more common.”

The company signed a deal with the University of Essex to develop its technology further.

Mr Hitchcock said: “The aim is for less human intervention and more automation in identifying and recording defects.”

The technology would only be used to monitor solar farms, but its refinement is expected to bring a major boost to the company.

He added: “To crack some of the automation will allow us to scale up and offer the service outside the UK. It’s quite fundamental to our expansion plans.”

The university is one of Britain’s leading centres for drone and robot technology.

It operates a Governmentbacked Knowledge Transfer Partnership scheme which brings businesses and academics together.

Dr John Woods, from the school of computer science and electronic engineering, said: “Embedded systems technology has the potential to transform many aspects of modern business and the University of Essex has a wealth of leading academics in this space.”