Wind power BladeBUG halves time investigating turbine blades

In just 35 minutes, the BladeBUG advanced robot can be deployed to inspect areas of concern on a turbine blade – up to half the time it would take a human rope access technician. BladeBUG is safe, fast, reliable and, crucially, can reduce downtime when carrying out essential maintenance tasks or inspecting damaged turbines.

Traditionally, rope access teams have had the job of carrying out inspections and repairs of wind turbine blades. But it takes over an hour for a team of qualified technicians to get kitted up, hoisted to the correct height and inspecting a blade. Specialist teams come at a cost, and have to carefully manage safety risks as they work at great heights and sometimes in harsh weather conditions.

The BladeBUG provides a fast, safe and cost-effective alternative to rope access technicians inspecting blades. 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. Rigging up the BladeBUG is simple – 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.

Because the BladeBUG does not need to be hauled up to the top of the turbine, valuable time is saved when carrying out necessary onshore inspections. All of 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.

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