Autonomous Wind Turbine Inspection

Autonomous Wind Turbine Inspection: What You Need to Know

29 Jun 2023 Written by Sharon

Wind energy is paving the way for a renewable energy future. However, wind turbines require ongoing maintenance and optimization to continue operating at full capacity.

One study found that onshore wind farm output falls 13% after the first decade due to wear and tear. A separate study indicates that wind turbines decrease output by 0.2% to 1.6% per year, a noticeable amount that impacts the bottom line.

Asset inspection is vital to minimizing wear and tear to keep wind turbines operating optimally. Additionally, frequent inspections also prevent issues that may result in downtime and urgent repairs.

In the past few years, wind turbine drone inspection has emerged as a leading inspection method that allows for greater efficiency and accuracy. Prior to this, rope inspections absorbed significant time and created hazardous conditions.

Now, truly autonomous drone inspections, like those powered by vHive’s unique data capture technology, continue to help companies inspect wind turbine blades and other assets to cut costs, improve accuracy, and ultimately increase the output of wind farms.

So, how does autonomous drone data acquisition streamline your entire approach to wind turbine inspections? Here’s a quick overview of what you need to know.

Get a Snapshot Into the Health and Status of Your Turbines

How do you build a comprehensive source of truth for every turbine in your wind farm? And how do you assess the health of each blade? It starts with conducting frequent and accurate inspections, so you always know which turbines must be maintained and which ones may be nearing replacement.

Unfortunately, manually inspecting turbines consumes significant resources. That’s why wind farms are adopting autonomous drone inspections.

Autonomous drone software leverages the latest advancements in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and computer vision to ascertain where to fly and what to capture — all without human involvement (beyond activating the drones with a click of a button).

This innovative inspection method allows companies to create powerful digital twins for inspecting and mapping all assets in the field. This includes inspecting blades, exterior casings, and the overall location of each wind turbine.

Available Options for Wind Turbine Inspections

What are your options for inspecting your wind turbines? The most common methods for evaluating the health of your wind farm include:

  • Rope inspection: Workers will scale each turbine to carry out inspections. However, this increases risk to your workers and leads to lost output while the turbine is offline. And while rope inspections were once the only viable option — other solutions exist that can also reduce time, costs, and hazards.
  • High resolution cameras: Another method that uses high resolution cameras from the ground. While effective, it doesn’t capture the same level of detail and depth as some of the newer, more advanced methods.
  • Manual drone inspection: Piloting drones to carry out inspections replaces rope inspections entirely. However, they can be time-consuming, less accurate, and unscalable as they require a professional drone pilot. This leads to inconsistency between surveys. Additionally, when surveying high places, calculating height and the magnitude of wind can be challenging for a pilot on the ground. Add to that human error and it’s clear where things can go wrong.
  • Autonomous drone inspection: Truly autonomous drone software leverages the latest in computer vision and artificial intelligence to conduct comprehensive inspections without human intervention. Digital twin software enables autonomous drones to know what to capture and where to fly, allowing field inspectors to review footage after the fact to identify any areas of concern. This eliminates the need for professional drone pilots altogether.

What do you need to look for in a given drone inspection? Your chosen solution needs to be able to inspect the following:

  • Turbine blades
  • Nacelle (protective housing)
  • Surroundings

Fortunately, digital twin software like vHive’s is the ideal solution for precise and efficient inspections. You’ll be able to conduct a turbine blade inspection rapidly and effectively without requiring significant time investments.

Vital Features of Autonomous Wind Turbine Inspections

Autonomous wind turbine inspection leverages leading-edge technologies to improve inspection processes significantly. You’ll no longer require field inspectors to scale each turbine or skilled drone pilot maneuvering around the turbine.

Some drone inspection services use semi-autonomous inspections, which still require ongoing human involvement. However, truly autonomous software like vHive can provide you with the following:

  • ‘Click of a button’ operations, allowing pilots and field operations to activate the drones and then move on to other tasks
  • Asset Mapping: A detailed snapshot of your assets in the cloud, including blades, protective casings, and more
  • Time Savings: Less time spent in the field performing inspections
  • Reduced Risk: Less risk of unexpected downtime due to overlooked issues
  • Actionable Insights: Detailed reports of findings on the turbine that improve decision making, maintenance, and other critical operations

Enhance Wind Turbine Health with Autonomous Drone Inspections

The days of relying on workers scaling wind turbines for inspections are long gone, and even relying on human-piloted drones is a thing of the past.

Autonomous drone software has made it easier than ever for renewable energy companies to better analyze and map their assets and infrastructure.

Ready to discover what vHive can do for your wind farm? Contact us today to schedule a demo and learn how we can transform your inspections and decision making process.

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