As wind energy companies look to generate ever more power from wind turbines, the turbines themselves are getting bigger and bigger. Some can now use rotor blades that are 180 meters in length.
As the size increases, so does the height of the tower, and therefore traditional methods for examining the blades and turbine, by using a high powered telescope placed on the ground, are becoming less and less effective.
GE Global Research has partnered up with the US-based International Climbing Machines to develop a robot which can scale the wind turbine and along the blades themselves, in order to view the structure from a much closer distance. Recent trials of a remote controlled wind turbine inspection robot have been successful according to the European Wind Energy Association.
A high definition video camera attached to the robot allows engineers to study the blades in detail. A report by GE claims that “engineers would therefore be able to diagnose and repair any problems more quickly, thereby reducing the risk of failure or forced down-time of the turbine.”
GE are also interested in designing more advanced technology for performing maintenance inspections on the wind turbines, such as a microwave scanner which will allow the inner structure of the blade to be studied.