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Drones in the Wind Industry

Drone-based inspections provide cost reduction and revenue enhancement opportunities of over $600/turbine when compared to ground-based inspections. The savings value is two folds ($1200/turbine) when compared to corrective/reactionary maintenance.

Measure is the nation’s leading Drone-as-a-Service® company that specializes in turnkey end-to-end services. We have provided a broad spectrum of drone services to companies in the energy, media, construction, and telecommunications sectors. In the energy sector, drones enable automation of the field inspection work and can do a task quickly and more accurately. Improvement in safety, reduction in hazardous field hours, cost savings, revenue enhancement, and digital asset management are some of the important factors that are driving the adoption of this technology.

Our team has developed specialized drone services for inspecting solar farms, wind turbines, power lines, power generation assets like coal plants, providing actionable data to inform asset management and business decisions.

For a little background can you outline the current process that may be used for wind turbine blade inspection.

To a larger extent, the wind industry relies on corrective maintenance rather than predictive mitigation steps. Corrective maintenance is expensive – unnoticed defects can result in catastrophic failure, resulting in expensive repairs, extended down time of the turbine, and associated lost revenues. A single catastrophic failure on a wind farm can wipe out the savings of not budgeting regular predictive maintenance.

Predictive maintenance today relies on ground inspection methods, which involve shutting off the turbines and hiring contractors who either need to physically climb the turbines to inspect them or take pictures from the ground. In addition to the significant safety risk associated with physical climbs, but needing to shut off the turbines for a long duration greatly reduces the output and revenues. Ground inspection with cameras can take upwards of two hours per turbine, which can be reduced to 15-30 min with drones, reducing the down time of turbines by 75% and making the inspection cost-effective.

How can a drone be used to improve this process? Describe the process using a drone.

Drones can automate the data collection and inspection, making the process cost-effective and reliable. With traditional ground inspection methods, a two-person crew would be able to inspect 3-4 turbines in a single day. A drone pilot can inspect between 12-15 turbines in the same period.

Drones can take accurate pictures of the defects by being closer to the turbines than ground inspection cameras that are hundred’s of feet away. As a result, the chances of missing a defect/anomaly is almost zero with a drone.

Describe the value of identifying efficiency losses faster and safer and why this is important for a wind farm manager.

Our inspections have successfully identified defects that can cause up to 6% productivity loss per turbine, which if gone unnoticed in the ground inspection method can result in $10,000 annual revenue loss. Further, an unidentified defect can result in an unexpected catastrophic failure, which causes expensive repairs, extended downtime and associated revenue loss. Revenue losses alone from these unexpected catastrophic failures can be as high as $50,000 per turbine.

How can pictures be identified accurately and more precisely with Drones vs ground inspections?

Drones follow a pre-planned automated flights to capture images at regular overlap. This automation reduces the chances of missing small cracks and defects, and produces highly accurate reporting. Ground inspections require manual or semi-automated data capture and picture-taking can only be done hundred’s of feet away from the blade, introducing human error and inaccuracy in data collection.

How can the drone data enable digital asset management?

Drone imagery enables storing of digital signatures of the asset health. Information from past inspections can be conveniently presented to show asset performance over time. Digital dashboards with key performance indicators can enable an asset manager to perform comparative portfolio analytics.

Read full article at Robotics Tomorrow