As the use of wind power grows in the energy industry, as does the need for wind turbine inspections. Drone wind turbine inspections have a variety of benefits, and experts predict that the industry will take off and be worth $6 billion by 2024.
Wind power is booming and wind turbine installation rates continue to climb each year. With a growing number of wind turbines comes a multitude of blades and mechanical parts that harness their power. At the beginning of 2015, there were 270,000 wind turbines with 800,000 spinning blades. By now, there are already thousands more.
The blades and mechanical parts included in wind turbines will eventually breakdown. The massive number of wind turbine blades that need to be inspected for pre-end-of-warrant requirements and normal wear and tear have called for faster, safer and higher-resolution inspections.
Benefits of Drone Wind Turbine Inspections
Wind turbine inspections have traditionally relied on binoculars and field scopes from the ground, or scaling the structures with the help of ropes or cables. From the ground, certain minute defects can’t be observed, because they are invisible to the naked eye. When humans scale wind turbines for inspection, there are many risks including fatality.
Deterioration can reduce energy production in early stages and lead to catastrophic and costly blade collapse. Drone wind turbine inspections can be instrumental in preventing these problems and are a safe alternative to sending a human up to dangle 400 to 500 feet in the air while inspecting these structures.
- Drones have stability in strong winds and extreme climates
- They would never be placed in an area disruptive to airspace
- They operate at slow speeds, close to the ground and in sterile environments
- Using drones is safer than conventional operations conducted by a human
- High resolution infrared cameras attached to drones can detect turbine defects that the human eye may not
- Using the camera to record in HD allows companies to view the video over and over again to see how deterioration increases over time
- Wind turbine inspections can be cut from 3-4 hours via rope access technique to 45 minutes via drone
- Data analysis systems and inspection services software can be installed on drones
Drone wind turbine inspections have a variety of safety, performance and cost and efficiency benefits. As technology advances and the growth of wind power increases, as will the need for drone wind turbine inspections.