A team of researchers from Sandia National Laboratories, California, have developed a robot autonomously for monitoring wind turbine blades.
Since routine inspection and repair of turbine blades is a challenging task for humans; the team came up with a crawling robot in partnership with companies such as International Climbing Machines and Dophitech.
The robot can move sideways, bottom and top on a wind blade, like a lawnmower. Theonboard cameras inside it will help to detect surface cracks or scuffs in real-time as well as small demarcations that may indicate larger subsurface damage. The robot ultrasonic allows it to inspect deep into the blades; detecting interior layer damage before its visible outside.
It is learned from the researchers that the robot can inspect hidden damage in wind blades noninvasively; certainly being more accurate than inspecting with cameras.
Currently, the robot is new and it could work quite slowly and needs human assistance. In the future, more cameras could be installed on each of the turbine blades, hence, after installing, the teams can return back after few hours or days to find problem areas marked for closer inspection or scanning.
Possibly, a crawler robot could be placed on-board the turbine and inspect each blade regularly.
The new development is good news for wind turbine companies across the globe. In light of the development, autonomous inspections are the future. Autonomous inspection has been already carried out in bridges and power lines and now in turbine blades.