In a recent LinkedIn post, RWE CEO Sven Utermöhlen highlighted the transformative impact of drones on blade inspections in their offshore fleet. Previously requiring up to three experts to abseil from the nacelle to the blades, this task is now performed by a remote-controlled drone, offering significant advantages.

Drones have increased the safety of blade inspections, eliminating the need for dangerous abseiling procedures. They provide comprehensive imagery of the entire blade surface, making inspections faster and reducing turbine downtime. Inspecting all three blades on a turbine now takes less than 30 minutes.

Supported by the Horizon platform from Skyspecs, RWE’s engineering experts classify and evaluate the findings. Their catalog includes over 600 different configurations, classified by the material affected, damage severity, and repair urgency. This data helps spot trends and patterns, such as damage development speed and material fragility, aiding in optimal repair timing.

Detailed information from drone inspections provides a holistic view of wind farm conditions, enabling strategic planning for blade repairs. Knowing precise repair needs beforehand is crucial, especially given the small weather windows suitable for repairs. Utermöhlen praised the Operations and Maintenance team and highlighted successful collaborations with Clobotics Wind Services.

Clobotics’ New Drone Release

In April, Clobotics Wind Services launched a new version of its autonomous drone-based inspection system. The 4.8 release of Clobotics IBIS™ features the new Sony ILX-LR1 commercial camera, offering enhanced speed, cost-efficiency, and image quality. The new camera provides clearer, better-lit images, improving defect identification.

The latest release includes mechanical and software enhancements, leveraging DJI’s Matrice drone platform and Clobotics’ experience. Features include fully automated one-button takeoff and inspection capabilities for turbines with blades up to 135 meters. Inspection times have decreased by nearly 20%, and the system’s lifecycle has been extended.

George Yan, CEO of Clobotics, emphasized their vision to create powerful, reliable, and easy-to-use inspection systems. The IBIS 4.8 release represents a significant step towards this vision, enhancing performance and efficiency for wind turbine blade inspections.

In conclusion, drone technology for blade inspections marks a significant advancement for RWE and the wind energy industry. It improves safety and efficiency while providing valuable data-driven insights, contributing to the sustainability and reliability of wind energy production.

Sources: RWE & Clobotics