I have an unusual application that I wanting some advice on to see if a drone may be feasible. We have a remote business here that relies on internet through an antenna powered by two small 60W solar panels. It works well, but we are having issues with snow accumulating on the tops of the panels and sitting for days during the winter which is draining the batteries excessively to the point where the link fails. The batteries can survive a day or two without sun, but this snow can sit for well over a week before being melted which is too much for the batteries to handle.
The antenna is about 1/2 mile away up on a ridge about 300-400 feet higher than the buildings here. There is no vehicle access up there and its difficult if not dangerous to head up there with any chance of ice since there are precarious ledges and sheer drop offs in a number of spots. I am wondering if using a drone with a small camping type infrared propane heater would be feasible to clear the snow off the panels.
I know IR heaters are often used to melt snow, but I am not so sure how easy this would be for a drone. It would have to hold position well within a 2 cubic foot box. Its all line of sight from our property and every property I have to cross is leased or owned by me.
I have some past experience with gas RC helicopters in college and could fly them well, but that was a long time ago. Otherwise, I have little experience with drones, though I find them fascinating.
I guess the 2 questions are first if you all think this is feasible and / or recommended. Secondly if feasible, we would have a budget of about $1200 or so. Is this remotely possible for that kind of money? I might be able to justify more just for the fact that this sounds like a cool way to clear off solar panels, but when it comes down to it, anything much more expensive and we could probably upgrade the batteries for a couple thousand and fix this problem another way.
A picture of the antenna is attached.
Why use something to commute to the solar panel?
All you want to do is actuate something remotely at the solar panel.
You could install wipers onto the panel or a geared motor that just tilts the panel down and lets the snow fall off.
If you go down this road, may as well have it double as a sun tracker so your panel becomes more efficient as well, offsetting the power required for the motor :)
Could be controlled with an Arduino and managed over a network or wireless with radio modem