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Aerial Wind Turbine Blade Inspection

Aerial drones and UAVs are completely changing the way that wind turbines are surveyed in the UK.

The blades on wind turbines are very susceptible to damage, in particular from weathering and dust. Eventually this damage causes cracks, edge debondings (most critical which will require structural repair) and surface and coating damages.

Higher resolution imaging on aerial UAV drones can capture these cracks and coating damages without the risk of sending inspection crew to check on the blades with cables. The technology is so good that we can capture blade defects more accurately than the human eye.

At current, wind turbine blades made from glass and carbon fibre composites are next to impossible to recycle, and are often cut into smaller pieces and disposed of in landfills. Up to 50,000 tonnes of rotor blade materials are expected to arrive in waste reception centres between now and 2020.

Aerial Inspection of a Wind Turbine

We will be focusing on the following key areas to ensure a safe flight and effective results;

  • A pre-site and an on-site assessment to ensure a safe flight
  • High quality images and video footage to help you assess the damage more carefully
  • Reduced downtime with a very short operational time for the inspection
  • Access to otherwise inaccessible areas
  • Preventative maintenance with seeing potential issues before they escalate

How can a drone / UAV survey help?

Traditionally, a three-man rope access team carried out wind turbine inspections. Experienced rope climbers descend from the nacelle to each blade from the turbine hub. The process is slow and intensive, and ofcourse risky for the team with regards to where general safety is concerned.

A UAV/Drone cannot completely replace methods, but it sure makes it easier to have preventative inspections, whilst done without putting men at risk. The risk exposure in a “working at height” situation is reduced greatly, all whilst being far more cost effective. Because of this, you can justify more frequent inspections, and meet the legal requirements to ensure the turbines are operating to a good standard.

Our methodology

As stated earlier, we begin with a pre-flight assessment, checking ordinance survey maps, weather and meteorological data, GPS coordinates and building a mission plan.

Once we have this in place and we have agreed to the flight date and time, the equipment is set up. We use a Mavic Pro 2 drone, which utilises a 20MP 1-inch Sony sensor, and this has fantastic resolution at 4K video with a 10-bit colour depth. We also use Sony A7III cameras for high-resolution 4K footage for ground-level inspections.

One the day of flight, insurance is paid for the time-slot and we will turn up on-site to prepare a short 5-minute assessment of the area, in order to double check we have the correct details about the area which were checked in the pre-site assessment.

We will brief you before the flight, and carry out the procedure with your guidance, and your instructions on what footage you wish us to get, and where to concentrate our efforts.

The footage will be delivered to you within 2 days.