Robot scales offshore wind turbine blade

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The first blade walk of an offshore wind turbine by a robot has been completed in the UK by BladeBUG at an Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult facility.

In a demonstration of BladeBUG robotics and its inspection techniques, the robot repeatedly scaled blades at the ORE Catapult 7MW Levenmouth turbine off the coast of Fife, Scotland.

The six-legged inspect-and-repair robot is capable of inspecting blade surfaces for emergent cracks and imperfections, transmitting data back to shore and carrying out resurfacing works.

According to the project, this would save 30% on costs of current blade inspection techniques carried out by rope-access technicians.

Chris Hill, ORE Catapult’s operational performance director, said: “This is an incredibly significant technology that we know is being keenly watched by the industry as a potential game-changer.

“It has a clear potential for cutting costs, reducing human offshore deployment and increasing blade lifetimes. Robotics are here to stay, and they will be an essential ingredient to operating ever-expanding wind farms, deeper-water sites and faster, bigger turbines in the coming years.”

The robot had previously been tested at the vertical training tower at ORE Catapult’s National Renewable Energy Centre in Blyth.

This latest demonstration, in which the BladeBUG walked 50m on a vertically positioned blade on the Levenmouth turbine, established that the robot can conduct lengthy inspections in real-world conditions.

Chris Cieslak, BladeBUG CEO, said: “This is such a historic moment for us as a company. It has been so exciting to see results of months of work and development in action and this latest test marks the huge progress we have made.

“In a little over a year we have gone from designing and testing our first prototype to now seeing the BladeBUG robot walk along the blade of an actual offshore wind turbine.

“We cannot wait to perform further trials and demonstrate the capabilities further offshore.”

BladeBUG is part of the £4.2m Multi-Platform Inspection, Maintenance and Repair in Extreme Environments (MIMRee) project, which aims to demonstrate a fully autonomous inspection and repair mission to an offshore wind farm.

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