Automated drone technology in wind turbine inspections

02.03.2017

Siemens Wind Power is collaborating with US-­based company SkySpecs to deploy automated drone technology for onshore and offshore wind turbine inspections. The goal of the collaboration is to develop a push-­button inspection system that is faster, repeatable and more efficient than existing methods.

SkySpecs’technology solves one of the top challenges that industrial asset owners and service providers face: generating timely, precise and easy-to-consume inspection data while simultaneously minimizing down-time and personnel-­related expenses.

Siemens is collaborating with SkySpecs to refine its technology for utility-­scale wind turbine inspections and prepare it for commercial readiness. The joint effort will enable Siemens to incorporate more advanced preventive maintenance techniques using SkySpecs’ technology. It will also provide significant data that can be used to inform customers about the lifespan of their assets or to gain insights into contributing causes of eventual failures. Automated inspections will lower operating costs and potentially increase the efficiency and lifespan of wind turbines.

SkySpecs’ blade inspections are automated from start to finish, minimizing the need to allocate highly trained human resources to the job. The baseline solution allows drones to take off, capture high-resolution images of all four sides of each blade, return and land in under 15 minutes. The blades do not need to be stopped in any particular orientation. The captured data is uploaded to the cloud where it can be analyzed, annotated, and shared. Data inspection and report generation are completed in a fraction of the time it takes to conduct ground-based or rope inspections. Automation offers the flexibility to conduct inspections on-­demand rather and at set intervals. Every image is tagged with the data that customers need to locate, annotate and make decisions about timing of blade repairs. Precise, accurate data location provides a clear benchmark and a digital timeline of damage progression.

Siemens Wind Power Chief Technology Officer Ruediger Knauf said: “The autonomous drone technology supports our ‘Digitalization@Wind’ initiative in generating high quality field data about the condition of our wind turbines. This is particularly valuable for our offshore business, where completing inspections quickly, safely and cost effectively is of critical importance. Siemens Wind Power and SkySpecs can mutually benefit from this collaboration via next47, in sharing and co-­developing technology and expertise. I am confident that we can bring blade inspection to the next level.”

SkySpecs CEO Danny Ellis commented: “We have been working with customers and partners in the wind energy industry to develop the most effortless and technologically sophisticsted – yet fully automated – solution on the market. Siemens Wind Power is motivated to improve turbine inspection technology, including data collection and analysis, and have provided us access to their deep resources and expertise. Siemens has an incredibly impressive understanding of both the wind energy markets and autonomous technology, making our partnership a true win-­win.”

Silke Funke / SkySpecs

 

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