Innovation That Matters

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Marine robots for precise wind turbine maintenance

Agriculture & Energy

A remote-controlled robot is making it cheaper and safer to perform repairs on offshore structures

Spotted: Offshore platforms, from oil derricks to windfarms, are becoming more numerous. In Germany, for example, there are more than 1,500 offshore wind turbines. While these are relatively low maintenance, they do require periodic inspections for cleaning and corrosion protection, as well as any necessary repairs. Most of this underwater work is done by divers and can be expensive, time-consuming, and dangerous.

Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, Europe’s largest application-oriented research organisation, has recently developed an alternative. Its Smart Ocean Technologies research group (SOT) has created an underwater robotic vehicle, called the “Crawfish”, that is designed to perform precise maintenance work on underwater structures.

The Crawfish’s design features four direct-drive wheels that allow the robot to move freely on both flat and curved surfaces. A sensor collar allows the Crawfish to detect cracks in weld seams through its ultrasonic sensor technology. At the same time, damage to anti-corrosion paint can be repaired by attaching a brush to the Crawfish. A special two-component coating material can then be injected using a tube and applied by the robot.

Fraunhofer’s research work receives funding both from the public sector (approximately 20 to 30 per cent of the total research funding) and through contract research earnings (roughly 70 per cent), such as research directly contracted by industry and publicly funded research projects.

From restoring reefs to boring tunnels, autonomous robots are being used for an increasing number of tasks featured in the Springwise library.

Written By: Lisa Magloff

Email: info@sot.fraunhofer.de

Website: smart-ocean.fraunhofer.de

Contact: smart-ocean.fraunhofer.de/contact

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