Wind turbines are getting bigger and bigger. The larger the wind turbines are, the more kilowatts they are capable of producing. However, wind turbines are also difficult to inspect and maintain, requiring cranes and specialised maintenance engineers to inspect both the rotor blade and the overall structure.
Maintenance and inspections are costly, time-consuming and risky for the humans who carry out the inspection, and the difficulty and time required scales with the size of the turbines. Wind turbine and blade inspection is very challenging as the internal structure of the blade may develop some structural problem that may be invisible from outside. Such technical faults cannot be noticed through manual inspections by ease and drone powered solutions helps tackle such challenges.
Perks of using UAV in inspection
- AI powered Wind Turbine Inspection
Given the safety hazards and time taken to carry out wind turbine inspections, it is not surprising that the use of drones for this purpose is on the rise. Not only do they help carry out regular inspections but also help identify and gather data to support warranty claims.
The conventional manual inspections using ropes and platforms can at best inspect 2-3 wind turbines a day while a semi-automatic drone could inspect 12-15 turbines in the same time. A 2 man team consisting of a drone pilot and sensor operator can maneuver and click high definition images of different parts of the wind turbine, typically inspecting each blade in under 10 minutes of flight.Wind turbine inspection has been a slow process that is inherently dangerous. Often, wind turbines would need to be inspected manually, both during maintenance and construction. Today, using drone powered solutions inspections can be made easy and effective. Let’s look at some advantages of using the drone tech in the inspections:
- Carry Out Maintenance Up to Four Times Faster
Through drones, wind farms may be able to conduct their standard operations and maintenance inspections up to four times faster. Drones can be deployed either in a broad spectrum over the entire landscape or to inspect a single wind turbine if there have been incidents recorded.
- Improve the Safety of Your Worksite
Every business wants to improve the safety of their operations for their employees. Drone technology uses completely unmanned solutions that represent no danger to the operator, which makes them highly preferred in terms of safety.
- UAVs Provide High-Resolution Imagery
Apart from reducing the safety risk to personnel, UAVs produce high-resolution imagery of areas that personnel may not otherwise be able to reach. They can capture all angles and areas of a wind turbine, even those that a human being wouldn’t be able to access. Photos, videos, and live streams can be captured that are extremely accurate and in very high-resolution, which can aid in the diagnosis and discovery of problems.
- Reviewing Large Areas at Once
Drones can cover a lot of ground quickly, making them ideal for larger wind farms. What once would take a human team days to inspect can be done by a UAV in the matter of hours. By conducting these inspections regularly, businesses can key into potentially dangerous or costly issues before they become serious, saving them money.
- Resource and Cost Effective
Aerial Data helps to keep track of all the assets of wind farms at lower cost. Reduces cost, time and resources with Drone Inspection compared to manual traditional approach. Saves Inspection cost upto 50% when doing a Drone wind turbine and blade inspections.
Current Inspections with Drones
Today, a field team heads to a wind farm with a drone equipped with high-resolution photography, LiDAR (light detection and ranging) and thermal detection instruments. During the inspection flight, the drone captures high-resolution images that can measure erosion on blade edges.
The infrared camera and LiDAR sensor look for hidden damage inside the equipment, seeing up to 15-cm deep. The data collected is most likely saved onto a secure digital (SD) card, uploaded to a laptop and emailed back to the office for analysis. An inspection report is produced, based on the analysis of this data, and is usually divided into categories of red, yellow and green priority according to the seriousness of the damage. This report can if needed include a service plan, with recommendations to cost-effective improvements. This entire inspection excluding the analysis, takes about 45 minutes.
On-site rotor blade inspection
During an on-site inspection, our investigation team will fly the drone to the required position for data capture and start the inspection of the rotor blade, whether it is for a full inspection or specific areas of the rotor blade. The data is stored, making on-site evaluation of the state of the wind turbine possible. The drone lies stable in the air and can handle a wind speed of up to 10 m/s. Therefore, the drone is ideal for inspection of both onshore and offshore wind turbines.
Company using drones for inspections: Click here
FUTURE OF DRONE INSPECTION:
Now let’s take it a step further. Imagine dozens of UAVs staged near a wind farm. They’ll be programmed to do routine inspections on a frequent schedule and also be at the ready for any unscheduled flights needed after weather events, helping to identify equipment damage.
These aerial robots will be equipped with computer vision to understand the surrounding aviation environment and detect other aircraft to avoid collisions. They’ll be registered with remote identification capabilities, allowing them to avoid conflicts with crewed aircraft and be tracked by authorities. They’ll fly autonomously in airspace governed by a universal traffic management system (UTM) for drones, similar to what the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) runs for commercial aircraft.
The drones will be connected to the high speed, ultra-low latency 5G wireless network through small communication nodes placed right on structures in the field. AI software will guide the UAVs as they look for potential damage, guiding the drones to problem areas. Technicians could view the drone video in near real time.