Drones and Wind Turbine Inspections: The Lowdown
Wind turbines are pretty massive, right? We’re talking about structures bigger than the Statue of Liberty. That’s pretty big.
Plus, there are all of those rotating blades that look pretty intimidating. To go anywhere near them for inspection, you need to switch them off – and that costs a lot of money. But let’s face it, no sane engineer is going to go anywhere near those super-strength blades until they’re safely stationary.
There are so many wind turbines, and they keep springing up everywhere on the landscape. For good reason, too: they produce effective green energy. At the start of 2015, there were nearly 270,000 wind turbines operating across the world – that’s over 800,000 blades spinning across the globe.
That’s a lot of maintenance, and a lot of shut-down time.
Send In The Drones!
An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is able to reach the dizzying heights of a wind turbine and – in the hands of a skilled pilot – reduce or negate any operational shutdown required for a routine inspection.
We’re not kidding you: an inspection that would take hours or even days with a serious amount of safety gear and some brave, brave souls indeed can actually take mere minutes with a drone. A UAV can be launched in minutes, flown to the structure, and deliver real-time high definition footage to an inspection team safely planted on the ground below.
The detail picked up by on-board cameras is minute – even hairline cracks are possible to spot. The ability to review, slow down, and replay footage means highly detailed inspections can be carried out to identify problem areas, common difficulties, or regular maintenance requirements. Now you only need to send the engineer up the drone to actually fix it (drones don’t quite do that… yet), instead of spending a lot of time on the initial inspection AND the repair.
Offshore Wind Farms And Drones
‘What about offshore wind turbines? Surely they can’t operate in harsh marine environments?’ TO this we say: we think that rock you’ve been hiding under probably needs a spring clean by now. Marine drones are not just a reality, they’re already in use by the most savvy offshore engineers!
Designed for the difficult environment presented by offshore inspections, marine specific drones can operate in high winds, varied air pressure, and not be affected by salt corrosion. Yet they also still deliver the high quality inspection footage that you’d find on any land-based wind turbine. If anything, marine drones for wind turbine inspections are the leaders of the pack, as they save even more money: your engineer crew won’t need to be shipped to each turbine for inspection and then spend hours rigging up with safety gear. As long as the drone pilot and his assistant are planted on a boat within regulation distance of the UAV, you can inspect as many offshore wind turbines as you like from one spot.
Drones: The No-Brainer For Wind Turbine Inspections
Without the need to physically climb a structure, time is saved. Without the need to rig up safety gear, time is saved. Without the need to move at a human pace, time is saved. Without the need for… you get the picture. Time is money, people! Save time, save money, and produce more regular maintenance checks without increasing your budget. Drones aren’t the future: they’re the now.