Scanifly Software Review
Scanifly Software Review
Scanifly delivers a drones dependent survey and software solution for accuracy and speed in the design of the solar PV systems. Scanifly is a solution that few others offer solar system designers; the ability to conduct their own aerial survey and create a 3D model of the site. Scanifly eschews satellite imagery in favor of more accurate drone imagery. Scanifly’s 3D modeling software and support service delivers a 3D model that PV system designers can depend on to be an accurate representation of site conditions and create a deliverable solar system design.
Traditional Site Survey
The traditional method of a site survey involves a visit to the customer or prospective client’s home climbing, measuring, recording and taking pictures. There is always worker safety risks that is involved in this process, however, despite site surveying by a qualified person it is still prone to errors. Using Scanifly reduces the risk significantly and improves the quality of the results. Seen in this context the case for Scanifly is clear.
Scanifly Drone Survey
The Scanifly method involves using drone imagery that is geo tagged. This is possible with easily available retail drone technology which isn’t particularly specialized equipment. Scanify allows site surveyors to quickly assess any site by flying the drone over it. The online tutuorials aren’t a full fledged course but they provide the surveying company with recommendation for best practices for drones based surveys. The suggestion is to first make an overview flight followed by flights over specific roof sections. The number of flyovers would depend on site conditions and around significant obstructions to the sightline such as chimneys and trees.
1. 3D Model and Solar Design
The next step in the workflow, is to create a new project on the Scanifly web software and upload the images to this project. A 3D model of the project is then rendered by the Scanifly team and uploaded to the project page. This process typical takes 2-3 hours. Each feature of the building can be accurately measured and therefore the system designer can rely on the generated project for accurate CAD and shading outputs. Placement of the modules is done by tracing the roofs, defining keepouts and adding setbacks.
The design of the solar system is assisted by the shading tools that provide an estimation of the solar access. The software appears to offer fewer options in sizing the inverter and other electrical components. It is very useful to have visual representation of the solar panels’ azimuth and the tilt of the racking. Additionally, it is useful for customer’s and designers concerned with aesthetics to visualize the materials of the solar modules and the racking.
2. State Agencies approve Scanifly’s Shading Analysis
Scanify is one of the few, if not the only, 3D modeling solution provider whose shading analysis is recognized by state agencies, New York State Energy Research & Development Authority and Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, for their PV System accuracy in the shade report. This certainly provides confidence to the solar companies and their customers.
3. Solar Companies Increase Accuracy
The solar industry has become increasingly dependent on satellite imagery for their design workflow. Optimistic system designers have a tendency to place more solar panels and predict more solar capacity on projects than is practicable. This causes significant issues during the installation phase of the projects, which of course takes some explaining to a customer who is now informed that they will have a lower capacity solar systems. Using Scanifly can improve the effectiveness of the solar installer to design and deliver projects more accurately.
4. PVSyst and AutoCAD compatibility
Scanifly software and tools can be used to create 3D models and shading analyses of solar systems that can then be exported and better analyzed on other specialized software such as PVSYST. In this context Scanifly is a valuable tool to the collection of software tools that is required by solar companies. Additionally, Scanifly offering access to their national network of drone operators makes it possible to conduct aerial surveys without having to hire and train a full time drone operator. Scanifly’s value to solar industry projects depends on its 3D Modeling ability and therefore is fully compatible with related software such as Sketch-up, AutoCAD and PVSYST.
5. Sharing Drone Images with the Customer
While the ability to share a link with your customer to have a fly over image of the proposed solar is impressive. It does have short comings in the software’s ability to create a full fledged sales proposal. The link provides the ability for the property owner to download the images and share them on social media. Although, it is uncertain if all rights reserved in the favor of the surveyor or the property owner.
6. HeatSpring and Drone Pilot Training and Support
Scanifly offers an in-depth training and support for drone operators making them a natural partner in the survey and assessment process. Scanifly offers courses on HeatSpring with course materials that cover several core subjects related to drone surveys and creating accurate Solar 3D Models. These course materials, while not free, offer a method for people interested in providing drone surveying services to qualify as certified drone operators. Additionally, an FAA Part 107 course in partnership with Drone Pilot Ground School is provided for a solar company that requires people to operate their drones safely and effectively.
Scanifly would seem to be irrelevant by the standard of pre-sales design requirement and the availability of other sources of aerial imagery such as NearMaps and EagleView. Although, it is important to note that NearMaps and EagleView have poorer coverage of remote and sparsely populated regions.
Furthermore, with a few addition of similar tools drones can be used for more than a surveying tool. Scanifly can become vital as a possible post contract signing survey tool for design, project planning, permitting and operation & maintenance. While this is not the forte of Scanifly at present it is something that is required for several residential and commercial projects. Scanifly will be invaluable for larger residential, commercial and remote sites requiring greater accuracy than satellite imagery can provide and/or where aerial imagery is unavailable.
While the 2-3 hour turn around is commendable it brings to light the fact that the process is a computing heavy process. And this process is not connected to the web interface that Scanify provides; in essence there is an element of manual work being done. This backend process would need to be automated in order to improve Scanify’s ability to address a larger volume. This manual process also possibly contributes to the higher cost. The prices are not openly available and those that were seen tend to be beyond the value proposition for smaller solar installers.