Wind turbine inspection has been made a little safer, faster and more thorough
with the advent of purpose built robotic vehicles.
Regular inspection of wind turbines is a serious business as tiny cracks or
other forms of fatigue in structures can result in catastrophic failure. The
inspection process itself can be dangerous too.
Helical Robotics removes the risk with its HR-MP20 Magnetic Platform Lifting Vehicle;
a 19kg robotic vehicle designed to work on surfaces of a minimum 7 inches in
diameter. It can carry a variety of equipment (up to 9kg when climbing),
including a high resolution video camera streaming photos and video in real time to a laptop PC.
Other relevant equipment it can carry are ultrasound devices; which can provide
early detection of flaws and/or potential damage in wind turbines not usually
The HR-MP20's curious climbing ability is made possible with a neodymium magnetic adhesion system; which does not touch the work surface.
Powered by Ni-MH and Li-Polymer battery packs, the HR-MP20 has a line of sight
control range of 762 metres and can ascend a turbine tower at a top speed of
19.8 metres per minute.
The 60.7 x 64.7 cm robot is highly manoeuvrable and able to turn on its
own axis through the use of a Mecanum wheel system; wheels with a series of rollers attached to
their circumference. It can operate in temperature ranges of -10 °C to °50 C.
The price? Starting at a smidge under $20,000 - which may seem exorbitant, but
it is probably significantly cheaper over the long term than other methods
providing the necessary access.
Helical Robotics isn't the only show in town. GE has also been developing a wind
turbine crawling robot that uses a vacuum system to adhere to the surface;
but unlike the HR-MP20, GE's robot has an 'umbilical cord' of sorts.
Others are examining the potential of using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).