A group of student researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar (CMU-Q), a Qatar Foundation partner university, are exploring a new way to clean solar panels so they can operate more efficiently in Qatar weather conditions. The team will investigate using AI to program aerial robots to clean and inspect solar panels.
The project is led by Eduardo Feo Flushing, visiting assistant teaching professor of computer science at CMU-Q. The team will also receive mentorship from Dhanup Somasekharan Pillai, a scientist at collaborating institute Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute (QEERI), part of Hamad Bin Khalifa University’s (HBKU).
This project is funded by an Undergraduate Research Experience Program grant from Qatar National Research Fund.
Michael Trick, dean of CMU-Q, emphasised the real-world application of the project: “This is an exciting project because the students will be working to solve a real problem for solar energy in Qatar: keeping the panels dust-free. I look forward to seeing how our students can contribute in such a meaningful way to the renewable energy sector in Qatar.”
Dr. Marc Vermeersch, Executive Director at QEERI, said: “We are happy to welcome CMU-Q students at our outdoor testing facility, we reaffirm our commitment to cultivating a culture of collaboration and knowledge-sharing. Our scientists and researchers take great pride in mentoring the next generation of innovators, researchers, and scientists, and we are delighted to provide CMU-Q students with the opportunity to learn from our experts and explore their own ideas.”
The student team is composed of one student from Hamad Bin Khalifa University, Mohamed Mahedi Hasan, and five students from Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar: Abrar Tasneem Abir, Devang Acharya, Deep Chandra, Diram Tabaa, and Nurassyl Zekenov.
The students are proposing an innovative solution to the challenge of cleaning and inspecting solar panels. They will be employing hybrid drones that are small, agile and cost-effective. The team aims to explore Artificial Intelligence algorithms to empower drones to learn maneuvers that facilitate the cleaning and inspection tasks.
Chandra, who is an information systems junior at CMU-Q, is particularly excited with the multidisciplinary approach. “I am very interested in design and hardware, and along with my teammates and mentors who are experts in programming, engineering and sustainability, I am confident we can create a great solution to this problem.”
Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar offers undergraduate programs in biological sciences, business administration, computer science and information systems. Students often collaborate in multidisciplinary teams to create solutions to a wide range of real-world challenges.