Images of climate innovation

Category: Fuel for thought

Robotic wind turbine maintenance

What's this about?

BladeBUG Ltd, with support from Imperial College London, have developed an advanced hexapod robot for wind turbine maintenance. Using suction on each leg to adhere to the blade and a novel gait, along with a versatile tool platform, accurate inspection and maintenance of wind turbines can be undertaken. The team has already achieved a world first, with the robot successfully traversing 80m on a wind turbine blade and system inspection.

A black bug-like device sits on the blade of a wind turbine

More detail about the research

The harsh operating environments to which wind turbines are exposed result in daily wear and performance degradation. However, drop-off in performance can be managed by regular maintenance with repair of blade surfaces. The existing approach to wind turbine operation and maintenance involves rope-assisted technicians abseiling along a stationary blade in order to undertake inspection and repair activities.

A range of inspection technologies have also been developed using quadcopter-based products and these can offer a valuable tool for some applications, but the capability to undertake the required maintenance is limited. By using a robot that can traverse a wind turbine blade and deploy accurate inspection, repair, and maintenance activities the requirement to expose people to the harsh and potentially dangerous environment of a wind turbine generator and transfer to the turbine, in the case of offshore applications, from a boat is negated.

BladeBUG Ltd with support from Imperial College London is developing an advanced hexapod robot using suction on each leg to adhere to the blade and a novel gait solution, along with a versatile tool platform, in order to enable accurate inspection, repair, and maintenance of wind turbines.

The team has already achieved a world first, with the robot successfully traversing 80 m on a wind turbine blade, undertaking lighting protection system inspection. As well as maintenance, the team is developing the robot to enable augmentation and upgrade of wind turbine blade surface through the deployment of features that can be added to the blades. The robot architecture includes a central bay where inspection, maintenance, and other tools can be housed and deployed as required on a wind turbine blade.

The robot philosophy being developed is that of cobotics with some tasks totally automated and others undertaken in collaboration with a skilled remote operator.

Entrant: Peter Childs , Imperial College London

Copyright: BladeBUG Ltd

Funding: Innovate UK

Collaborators: BladeBUG Ltd