Inspection of wind farms had never been an easy or safe task and when it comes to off shore wind farms, the risks involved, increases multiple folds. Thanks to Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), inspection of wind turbines can now be carried out very easily and with very low safety risks involved when compared to the traditional ways.
A very successful drone assisted inspection activity of an offshore wind farm, BARD Offshore 1, comprising of 80 BARD 5.0 turbines was recently carried out by a Danish Offshore Wind Service Operation Vessel (SOV), ESVAGT. The wind farm generates a total of 400 Mega Watts of power and is located approximately 100 kilometers from the shores of Borkum Island, in Northern Germany (Michael, 2017).
The whole inspection activity was carried out in cooperation with an inspection, database development and analysis company, AtSite A/S. The ESVAGT vessel was designated as the base of operations and a drone took about 25 minutes to complete inspection of a wind turbine which is significantly lower than the traditional full day activity at a single turbine. The use of drones for inspection is also way more safe than, dangling inspectors through a rope to check each blade of turbines in detail.
The inspection drone is mounted with a High Definition camera and it flies by each blade to film it from one end to another from all sides. An inspector present on the vessel or base of operations then analyzes the film and identifies any flaws if found. The flaws are marked and the inspector then takes decision of whether, immediate rectification or repair is necessary and predicts the action plans accordingly. Specially designed software are also available in the market, which are able to analyze the collected films of the blades and provide actionable intelligence to the inspectors. These software are very sensitive and are able to pick even the most miniscule of the flaws on the blade. This helps in further reduction of time required for inspection of the turbine (Tom, 2017).
The Wind Turbine’s inspection through drones, is based on three C’s i.e. Collect, Compute and Consume. The first phase includes collection of detailed raw data in the form of footage, videos and images of the target turbine. The second phase then involves identification of flaws and separating actionable intelligence. This may be carried out through software or inspectors. Once the actionable intelligence is in hand, the third phase, i.e. Consume begins, in which expert inspectors analyze the actionable data collected and give their decisions for repair and maintenance activities and prioritize them accordingly (David, 2017).
The use of drones in Wind Farm or Turbine inspections has simply revolutionized the inspection industry due to major benefits over the traditional methods. Drone assisted inspections are not only several folds less time consuming and safer, but also with the help of high tech image processing, thermal and infra-red cameras, these drones are able to identify defects which are invisible to naked eyes. Collectively, it can be easily said that, extensive use of drones will be seen in very near future, in the industry of wind farm inspections.
Froese, Michael (2017). How Drone takes on inspection of offshore wind farm. Windpower Engineering & Development. Available from: http://www.windpowerengineering.com/construction/projects/offshore-wind/drone-inspects-offshore-wind-farm/ [Accessed On: 14 October 2017]
Russell, Tom (2017). ESVAGT Offers Drone Inspection. 4COffshore.com. http://www.4coffshore.com/windfarms/esvagt-offers-drone-inspection-nid5940.html [Accessed On: 14 October 2017]
Foxwell, David (2017). Esvagt inspects offshore turbines using vessel-based drone. Marine Electronics & Communications. Available from: http://www.marinemec.com/news/view,esvagt-inspects-offshore-turbines-using-vesselbased-drone_48194.htm [Accessed On: 14 October 2017]