Innovation That Matters

The BladeBUG assists technicians with the inspection and repair of wind turbine blades | Photo source BladeBUG

Robot remotely inspects and repairs critical infrastructure in offshore wind turbines

Agriculture & Energy

Tests have proven that the robot can conduct lengthy deployments in real-world conditions

Spotted: A joint effort between UK-based universal robotic system BladeBUG and innovation and research centre Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult, has developed an advanced robot to assist technicians in the inspection and repair of wind turbine blades. BladeBUG was founded by former blade engineer Chris Ciesla, and is financed by Innovate UK.

The turbine-inspecting robot is a six-legged inspect-and-repair bot. In November 2020, the technology was tested at ORE Catapult’s 7MW Levenmouth demonstration turbine off the coast of Fife. The process was carried out over a period of two days, and covered 50 metres on a vertically positioned blade. The tests showed strong adherence by the robot’s vacuum-padded feet to the blade’s surfaces, as well as successful transmission of data from blade scans and a live video feed to technicians.

The robot’s most recent milestone was the successful completion of its first remotely-controlled lightning protection test on an offshore wind turbine. The continuing success of the BladeBUG is making a strong case for wide adoption of repair and maintenance robots across offshore wind.

The BladeBUG system is said to reduce costs by 30 percent compared to current blade inspection techniques. For the next generation of turbines, ORE Catapult said they expect savings to reach up to 50 percent. Sea conditions and faster tip speeds can lead to significant blade damage over time. As a result, costs associated with repair have been among the main areas of concern for offshore operators, until now.

Director of BladeBUG, Chris Cieslak, explains, “Our latest successful test has multiple positive implications for the offshore wind repair and maintenance industry”. He adds, “Our next goal is to further increase the robot’s capabilities by adding a suite of industry standard tools and functionality… This will enable BladeBUG to carry out even more maintenance tasks, and help the UK become a leader in the use of robotics for offshore operations and maintenance”. 

Other wind power innovations spotted by Springwise include a superconductor that makes turbines more efficient, and a floating ocean platform that combines wind, wave and solar energy.

Written By: Katrina Lane



Download PDF