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Scrobby - a solar panel cleaning robot

Creating a small, autonomous robot to keep solar panel installations clean.

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In this project I'll document the development process of the Scrobby Solar solar panel cleaning robot.

Since this moment the Scrobby is live on Kickstarter:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/stefanhamminga/scrobby-solar-keeping-your-solar-panels-clean

The basic concept came to life a few years ago, while working (professionally) on safety system designs for roofs and buildings. The idea being it should be able to avoid these situations completely.
I've been doing both the mechanical and electronics design by myself and I must say, so far it has been an amazingly good learning experience. I started building with a simple Teensy 3 and some off the shelf parts, but right now most electronic modules are designed specifically to my needs.
The robot consists of a main controller (currently moving from the Teensy 3 to a custom Freescale KL26 based board), a Bluetooth LE module, six ultrasonic sensors, two internal motor driven spools and many more bits.

The basic details

The basic goal of the Scrobby Solar project is to develop a robot that is able to clean solar panels autonomously. This with an affordable price target (350 euros) and minimal modifications to the system. After comparing some options I chose to work with just rain water for the cleaning actions (no need for a water supply, no frost issues in winter) and a tether based motion system.

A quick intro vid

Despite my video production talents and with some quick help of my sister I've managed to upload a quick introduction video. It shows some of the making process, plus some test runs on my small scale testing setup (which is a lot easier to work on than climb a roof and dance for rain every time I want to test something).

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Discussions

mohammed.atta_elgammal wrote 03/25/2016 at 13:26 point

I had a quick thought on the tether design. From your video, when the brush is active the Scrobby looks like it wants to run away. https://goo.gl/9NMeUq

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torsten.mogensen wrote 10/13/2014 at 21:29 point
I am a mere retired Norwegian solar panel owner in the sunny south of France wanting to easily clean my moneyproducing panels. I was just two days late in finding this very interesting project. Hope I can buy one unit when you are in production! Keep me advised of your progress.

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Stefan Hamminga wrote 10/09/2014 at 19:24 point
Hi Morgan,
Thanks for your thoughts and good luck wish!

One of the earlier designs actually had this feature. The reason for not doing this is that, even though it looks less stable, it's pretty similar in stability and this way the rotations and movements of the body can be continuously monitored, providing feedback on the torque the brush is exerting (compared to a running average), wind load and the obstacles encountered. Also, this design mostly decouples the forces in the individual tethers from the normal 'vertical' position of the body. A larger distance between where the tethers connect to the body rotates the body, depending on the angle of the tether wires.

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morgan wrote 10/09/2014 at 18:39 point
Super cool project.
I had a quick thought on the tether design. From your video, when the brush is active the Scrobby looks like it wants to run away. I was thinking if the tethers were connected at the sides it might be more stable.

Good luck with the Kickstarted (if only I had solar panels that needed cleaning....)

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