UK company BladeBug has unveiled a new wind turbine blade inspection robot which can work on both onshore and offshore turbines.
The six legged crawling robot is able to inspect and repair turbine blades remotely, avoiding the need for the traditional method which involves technicians using rope access to reach the blades.
In tests earlier this year, the robot was deployed in just 35 minutes to inspect areas of concern on a turbine blade - up to half the time it would have taken a human rope access technician. And in late 2021, the robot carried out a Lightning Protection Systems check during its first blade walk with the technician controlling it from the nacelle.
The robot has been in development for more than a year and builds on more than eight years of turbine robot development and trials at BladeBug. The current prototype has successfully completed its initial tests and is said to be close to going into commercial production.
Founder Chris Cieslak said: “We are really looking forward to showing our investors and the industry what we have achieved so far with the latest robot. The BladeBug has, until now, appeared to be exposed to the elements without an outer casing to protect it. That has all changed with our latest model, which is more versatile and robust. The robot has been designed to reduce costly turbine shut downs for our wind energy clients.”
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The use of drones and robots to carry out inspections or other work at height, especially in difficult to reach areas such as turbine blades, has been discussed for several years and devices are now appearing more regularly. The BladeBug is certainly not the first such device for turbine blades - Siemens Gamesa introduced a rope suspended robot that can both inspect and repair turbine blades using a suite of onboard tools in 2018.
One thing these devices do demonstrate is how a number of tasks that are currently carried out by people working from an aerial work platform might well have practical alternatives. The safety industry has long recognised and promoted the fact that the very safest form of carrying out work at height is from the ground, using such things as extended tools, boom mounted attachments, drones or robots. While such innovations will never completely replace platforms, or may even use a platform, they will at the very least complement them.
Perhaps specialist rental companies might consider adding such devices or equipment to their fleets in order to provide customers with options, before someone else does? Perhaps the question is are you an aerial work platform rental company or a provider of safe efficient work at height solutions? They are not the same.