robotic maintenance
Image credit: Sandia Laboratories

The robots, developed by Sandia National Laboratories, in conjunction with International Climbing Machines and Dophitech, have been designed to use infra-red cameras to detect visible and invisible damage to wind turbine blades.

This innovation could keep wind farms operating for longer, and in turn, reduce energy costs.

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Sandia and its partners developed the robot, which takes high-resolution, real-time, images of surface damage, whilst also checking for small deviations that may indicate damage below the blade’s surface.

The robot also uses an ultrasonic wand to search for damage too small to be detected by the human eye.

When used in conjunction with drones for inspection researchers say the technologies offer much faster and more detailed surveys than those traditionally conducted by personnel, and with a higher degree of detection.

Joshua Paquette, Mechanical Engineer in Sandia’s wind energy programme, said: “A blade is subject to lightning, hail, rain, humidity and other forces while running through a billion load cycles during its lifetime but you can’t just land it in a hanger for maintenance.

“By the time you can see a crack on the outside of a blade, the damage is already quite severe. You’re looking at a very expensive repair or you might even have to replace the blade.”