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Robots will soon be inspecting wind turbines

With the move to using greener sources of energy growing at an ever increasing pace, the sight of wind turbines near our coastlines has become a very common one. Given the way that these turbines create energy, there are many moving parts involved in the manufacture of a single wind turbine, which leads to the need for regular maintenance to be performed. They are often located in coastal areas and even off shore, so a wind turbine can be expected to take a battering from the very worst weather conditions.

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The average height of a wind turbine in the UK is around 75 metres, which makes the routine inspection and maintenance of turbines and their parts anything but routine. The dangers that are involved in checking how a wind turbine is functioning have left the industry seeking alternatives to sending engineers up to the business end of a turbine unless entirely necessary. Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories in California are experimenting with autonomous technologies designed to inspect wind turbines without the need for anyone’s feet to leave the ground.

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Drones and crawling robots, oh my!

The team at Sandia are testing technologies that can help to detect cracks, erosion and a whole host of other issues that could cause a turbine to fail. Technologies being looked at include drones and crawling robots that use ultrasound scanners to look at the surface of blades and beyond. Whether you are looking for a defect that was present at manufacture or something that developed over use, the way that turbines operate means that fatigue is almost inevitable over time.

Craning materials

Turbines are some of the largest composite structures constructed, so the use of a davit crane to lift parts to the correct height is vital if parts need to be replaced following inspection. Cranes such as those found at https://www.gmh.co.uk/transition-piece-davit-cranes/ are designed for the task of lifting heavy parts great distances off shore, making them ideal for getting the job done safely and efficiently.

Keeping all engineers safe when they are working at height offshore is a difficult job, but these new technologies should help limit the amount of time spent doing these tasks. Keeping operatives in a control room observing the progress of a drone is a far safer approach.



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