Wind Turbine Aerial Inspection

We specialise in high resolution aerial drone inspections of wind-turbines, concentrating on the rotor blades, nacelle and tower. The benefits of working with us will provide you with competitive rates, a safe and professional working manner, and a minimal downtime for the turbine itself. We can achieve a drone inspection for visual images on wind turbines for on-site analysis and assessment regarding the condition of the rotor blades and other parts.

Wind turbine towers are heavily eroded and damaged from weathering, and this can render the blades ineffective due to the reduced angle of attack. Since the blades are made of carbon fibre reinforced composites, they are very susceptible to wind, rain, hail and dust. Over time, the blade’s angle of attack is eroded, and the wind can no longer turn the rotor blades, and a wind turbine that isn’t working is costing money, and is a liability.

At current, wind turbine blades made from glass and carbon fibre composites are next to impossible to recycle, and are often cut into smaller pieces and disposed of in landfills. Up to 50,000 tonnes of rotor blade materials are expected to arrive in waste reception centres between now and 2020.

Aerial Inspection of a Wind Turbine

We’ll be focusing on the following key areas to ensure a safe flight and effective results;

  • A pre-site and an on-site assessment to ensure a safe flight
  • High quality images and video footage to help you assess the damage more carefully
  • Reduced downtime with a very short operational time for the inspection
  • Access to otherwise inaccessible areas
  • Preventative maintenance with seeing potential issues before they escalate

How can a drone / UAV survey help?

Traditionally, a three-man rope access team carried out wind turbine inspections. Experienced rope climbers descend from the nacelle to each blade from the turbine hub. The process is slow and intensive, and ofcourse risky for the team with regards to where general safety is concerned.

A UAV/Drone cannot completely replace methods, but it sure makes it easier to have preventative inspections, whilst done without putting men at risk. The risk exposure in a “working at height” situation is reduced greatly, all whilst being far more cost effective. Because of this, you can justify more frequent inspections, and meet the legal requirements to ensure the turbines are operating to a good standard.

 

Our methodology

  1. As stated earlier, we begin with a pre-flight assessment, checking ordinance survey maps, weather and meteorological data,  GPS coordinates and building a mission plan.
  2. Once we have this in place and we have agreed to the flight date and time, the equipment is set up. We use a Mavic Pro 2 drone which utilises a 20MP 1-inch Sony sensor, and this has fantastic resolution at 4K video with a 10-bit colour depth. We also use Sony A7III cameras for high resolution 4K footage for ground-level inspections.
  3. One the day of flight, insurance is paid for the time-slot and we’ll turn up on-site to prepare a short 5 minute assessment of the area, in order to double check we have the correct details about the area which were checked in the pre-site assessment.
  4. We’ll brief you before the flight, and carry out the procedure with your guidance, and your instructions on what footage you wish us to get, and where to concentrate our efforts.
  5. The footage will be delivered to you within 2 days.

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Growing Change in the Trend of Energy Generation

There is something interesting going on with energy production, and it signals a growing change in the trend of energy generation.
According to the institute for energy economics the boost for renewable energy is due to a seasonal increase in low-cost solar and hydropower generation. This is alongside a slump in electricity demand of 3%; the slump has been caused by pandemic related reduce demand from commercial and industrial sectors.

As you’ll soon see, hydro generation is falling as well, so it’s wind and solar that are rapidly increasing. Amid the pandemic, U.S. renewable power sources have topped coal for 40 days in a row, with solar and wind meeting the demand. 40 straight days of renewable energy beating coal is very, very significant.

According to current financial analysis the percentage of coal in the EU power generation market is expected to collapse into single digits by 2025.
In 2014, coal supplied 38.6 percent of the nation’s energy supply, and by 2019 that figure dropped to 23.4. Coal demand is set to drop a whopping 20% this year while renewable energy generation will grow 11%. This 11% growth is due to grid operators favouring their lower operating costs. Natural gas prices are also dropping, compounding to move away from coal.

This story about renewables overtaking coal is as much about the collapse of coal as the rise of renewables. There have been many coal company bankruptcies as well as a production over capacity – this has all led to capital investment drying up.

Interestingly, according to IBS world statistics, the energy production of hydroelectricity is also falling due to more droughts. Hydro energy has fallen by 0.7% over the last 5 years, so solar and wind are making more of a difference in the renewable sector.

Energy Storage and Technology

We can now use utility-scale batteries to store the excess amount of energy, though when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing, these batteries can feed back the energy onto the grid; it’s very clear now that the potential for electric energy storage is huge, from electric cars and aircraft, to utility storage. Over the last decade, a surge of lithium-ion battery production has led to an 85% decline in prices. This makes electric vehicles and energy storage commercially viable for the first time in history.