BladeBUG robot saves inspection time

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A robot called BladeBUG can be deployed to inspect areas of concern on a turbine blade, about half the time it would take to deploy a human rope-access technician.

Rope-access techs traditionally have the job of inspection and repair on wind-turbine blades. However, prep time for a team is more than an hour, and the costly teams must manage safety risks at great height and sometimes in harsh weather.

The processes required to rig and operate the BladeBUG can be managed by operations technicians with basic GWO Working at Height training. (Courtesy: BladeBug)

“We designed the BladeBUG to reduce costly turbine shutdowns for our wind-energy clients. As the U.K. focuses its energy supply on renewable sources such as wind farms, it is imperative these projects operate as efficiently as possible,” said Chris Cieslak, BladeBug director and founder. “Once our team has arrived on site, unloaded the BladeBUG, and carried out our safety checks, the robot will be attached to a blade and carrying out inspections in a little over half an hour. While vacuumed onto a turbine blade, the BladeBUG is able to walk around to any areas of interest.”

For onshore turbines, a ground-up approach for deployment is used. The robot is attached at ground level to a rope lowered by a technician from the top of the turbine, then hoisted into place to inspect the blade. One end of the rope is attached to a power descender on the ground, then goes up to the top to a pulley and back down to the robot. A top-down approach to deployment works best for offshore turbines.

The processes required to rig and operate the BladeBUG can be managed by operations technicians with basic GWO Working at Height training. The technicians on the tag lines communicate via radios with those operating the power descender to hoist the robot to the correct part of the blade.

The latest round of testing was successfully carried out at the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult’s National Renewable Energy Centre in Blyth.

“It has been a privilege to be a part of the BladeBUG journey and watch Chris and the team develop such a vital piece of technology for the industry,” said Andrew Stormonth-Darling of ORE Catapult. “The BladeBUG continues to go from strength to strength, and this latest test in Blyth is another tick in the box for the future of innovative wind turbine inspections.”

More info www.bladebug.co.uk