Find out about the latest technology used in wind turbine inspections.
Rotor blades of wind turbines are often subjected to extreme conditions. It is quite typical for storms and strong winds of up to 250km/h to strain the material, glue lines and generally wear out the blades. Hail, rain, and lightning strikes often make matters worse. Therefore, regular inspections must be carried out to detect damage for maintenance purposes.
Conventionally, this is done by either observing the blades from the ground with the help of telescopes or climbing onto the blades. As wind turbines have been increasing in size over the years, the inherent risk involved in carrying out inspections efficiently and accurately has fuelled the need to find a more efficient solution.
That solution is now available —in the form of remotely controlled micro drones equipped with a highly efficient video system.
In the summer of 2014, TÜV SÜD specialists conducted the pilot inspection of a wind turbine blade with the use of an airborne micro drone. With the assistance of a flight expert, the drone was manoeuvred along the rotor blades so that its video equipment could capture clear, detailed photos as well as high definition videos. The inspection proved the viability of this approach, which achieves significant time savings (down to 30 minutes per blade).
The reduced inspection time from this method minimises downtime and maximises output for wind farm operators. This is particularly important because of the wind power industry’s growth. The annual installed capacity increased by 44% in 2014, which brought the total wind capacity to about 370GW. Given the average size of a turbine (2MW, three-blade horizontal axis) and the recommended inspection interval of two years, 250,000 blades need to be inspected each year. The number of inspections could increase as more turbines operate beyond their design life. The use of drones will be crucial to help the industry meet the need for more efficient inspection.
Beyond the wind industry, drone-assisted inspections have many other potential applications. The micro drones can also be used to inspect buildings or even very tall buildings—anywhere inspection is needed but access is difficult and complicated.
TÜV SÜD has added the airborne micro-drone blade inspection to its comprehensive portfolio of services. For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.