Robotic blade maintenance changes the economics and assumptions behind current wind turbine blade maintenance practices. Robowind’s 3nd generation robot will begin field trials in June 2020. It inspects the blade, clean them using laser ablation, repairs “type 1 and 2” blade damage, applies erosion paint coatings, and install performance enhancement vortex generators and noise reduction serrations. Operators control the ROVs from the ground, eliminating the need for rope access, climbing towers, or aerial lifts.
Robot capabilities under development and Testing include:
- Winch and Tether Process for Installing and Removing the Robot From the Blade
- Process for Securing the Robot to the Blade
- Robot Control System with both Automated and Manual Control Capabilities
- Blade Inspection Using an Infrared Camera
- Blade Cleaning Using an Ablative Laser
- Repair of Type 1 and 2 Blade Damage
- Application of Erosion Protection Paints & Coatings
- Application of Lightening Protection Paints
- Installation of Vortex Generators
- Installation of Noise Reduction Serrations on the Trailing Edge
Blade Access Process
We use a winching system and a DJI 1000 drone to fly a tether rope over the wind turbine blade. We then use a winch to pull the winch cable, the robot, and the power tether to the blade. A similar process is used to remove the robot from the blade. The tether lines remain connected to the robot at all times.
Inspection: Location Tracking & Camera Vision Systems
The location tracking system determines the robot’s location when initially secured on the blade and tracks its position as it moves along the blade. It also logs the locations of damage identified by the camera vision system.
The camera vision system is designed to determine the locations of type 1 and 2 blade damage. The data collected will be used to help control the painting system so it properly fills in damaged areas with multiple layers of 3D printed UV cured paints and coatings.
The robot has a custom build control system that allows the technician to operate the robot from the ground. Although the controller allows manual control, the design intention is for the robot to be fully automated such that technicians only have to winch and secure the robot to the blade and return it to the ground when finished. The operation of the tasks are designed to operate automatically following a program comparable to a CNC machine tool.
We use an ablative laser to clean the blade. In addition, our offshore version has an additional cleaning capability to remove salt contamination from the blade.
Robowind’s robot has the ability to apply a variety of paints and coatings that are air or UV light cured. In addition, the robot has the capability to 3D print multiple layers of UV cured paints both to repair erosion damage and to print vortex generators and other performance enhancements. We are currently able to repair Type 1 and 2 blade damage and are working to develop the capability to repair other types of damage.