This paper focuses on applications of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for measuring optical error of heliostats in concentrating solar power (CSP) plants. In CSP, there is a need to measure solar-field optical errors, which is critical for future production improvement as well as for operations and maintenance of a heliostat field. This latter need is particularly challenging because of the large number of heliostats (over 10,000 for a utility-scale power plant) that individually track the sun in the field. To address this issue, a camera-equipped UAV, with an optimized drone flight path developed and uploaded to it, collects images of a precise reflection of the tower on each heliostat to evaluate optical error sources without interrupting plant operation. Generation of the drone path for capturing the reflected images is affected by a number technical and realistic constraints, which include the camera angle used to capture the image, the blocking of the camera view due to surrounding heliostats, the location of the camera in reference to the target heliostat, and the target heliostat position with reference to the tower. The effect of these constraints on calculating the camera position will be discussed in detail in this article. An effective drone-path algorithm is generated to fulfil the need of image collection under various constraints.

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