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LSBU Researchers are developing robots to inspect wind turbines

A wind turbine

Researchers at London South Bank Innovation Centre are working on an agile climbing robot that can reduce the risk and cost of inspecting wind turbines

One of the biggest issues with wind turbines is blade failure. Each year there are an average of 3800 blade failure incidents, causing injury, fatality, and financial loss.

The frequency of the incidents is due to the fact that the blades are under constant stress.

The challenges of inspecting wind turbines

Blade failure is preventable though regular, thorough maintenance but inspecting wind turbine blades is not a straight forward process.

Either trained staff need to physically climb onto the blades using climbing ropes, or the blades have to be dismantled and inspected in a workshop environment. Neither is ideal, both are costly, human inspection is risky and dismantling of the blades is incredibly time consuming.

The current solution: ROV vehicles

A solution to this problem is to utilise specially designed Remotely Operated Vehicles [ROVs] that can reach the blade and implement faster inspections on site.

However, current ROV systems are not very agile, they can’t get close enough to the blade to use a high quality non-destructive testing technique (which is the ideal) so are mostly used to carry out visual inspections.

What is needed is an integrated solution that delivers high quality, efficient inspections that don’t put people at risk.

LSBIC’s solution: an agile climbing robot

Wlnspector is an innovative system consisting of an agile robotic platform able to climb up the wind turbine tower and deploy an advanced Digital Shearography kit that carries out the inspection of the blades.

The robot is designed to steadily hold the kit at a precise distance from the blades so that shearography is made possible and image reconstruction algorithms are employed on the captured data to extract comprehensive information about the blades' condition. Specific technical objectives include:

  • Inspect towers with a height between 50-150m
  • Detect defects in an operational environment at depths up to 50mm
  • Robust robot with distance sensitivity at around ±5mm over an area of ±500mm
    Wlnspector has been tested, validated and improved based on feedback received by wind farm operators. This project aims to develop and accelerate WInspector as the optimal solution for the market.

The positive impacts of using Winspector

Wlnspector users will benefit from the early detection of emerging defects in two ways:

  • reduction in downtime periods for the wind turbine delivering significant cost savings
  • safer inspection method reducing the risk to human inspectors.

Project details

Project budget: £2,293,613

Grant to LSBU: £507,102

Project Partners:

  • WRS Marine inspections and Services BV
  • Innora Priogmena Technologika Systimata Kai Ypiresies AE
  • Gamesa Corporacion Technologica, S.A
  • TWI Limited
  • London South Bank University

Find out more on the project website

Find out more about the London Southbank Innovation Centre and the other robots in development there.

 
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