Could Solar-Powered Drones Deliver Electricity to the Developing World?
Distributed energy systems are a good idea for homes that aren’t hooked up to the grid. But distributing solar panels to remote areas in the developing world is hard. That’s why Mobisol, a German installer, is testing whether drones could do some of the heavy lifting.
“The last mile can be a headache, and, since we have a couple of engineers who can develop drones, we thought maybe there’s a leapfrog we can make in how we bring appliances and pieces of kit to a customer,” says Thomas Duveau, the company’s business development manager.
Every Mobisol customer has a solar home system that can be put to productive use, he says. The company is testing the idea that it could put a little recharging station on every customer’s roof—that way drones could move around, say, large areas of Rwanda or Tanzania. In other words, Mobisol’s customers would become part of the drone network, offering their rooftop panels as micro-charging stations. In return, customers would get credits on their bills, offsetting their monthly repayment costs. See more in the video here:
Mobisol has a rent-to-own business model, whereby customers pay back the cost of solar panels and household appliances over a three-year period and then own their equipment. So far, the company has signed up about 40,000 families, or 200,0000 people in all.