US engineers have tested a vertical climbing robot equipped with a camera for close-up inspection of wind turbine blades.
Currently, an inspector examines the blades from the ground, about 100m away, by using a high-power telescope. Now, a team from GE Research has partnered with International Climbing Machines to develop a remote-controlled device that can scale the wind tower carrying a wireless, high-definition video camera.
Using this technology an inspector could have a real-time view of the blades from less than 10m away while remaining safely on the ground, allowing a more thorough examination.
The system was recently tested at a wind farm in Texas with positive results.
GE scientists are also developing a microwave scanner that could be fitted onto the robotic vehicle. The use of microwaves would allow inspectors to see through the blade material, giving an earlier indication of any breakdown in the structure.
Another potential benefit of using the climber is better weather tolerance, with fewer inspections delayed because of poor visibility.