Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult’s National Renewable Energy Centre in Blyth has concluded the latest round of testing of the BladeBUG inspect-and-repair robot for offshore wind turbine blades.
The six-legged blade crawler has now reached a major milestone in development under a £1 million project – BladeBUG 2, partly funded by Innovate UK, enabling technical integration to begin with the MIMRee system for fully autonomous wind farm operations.
During the trials, which took place in early March, the robot walked on blade surfaces, proving the stability of its vacuum adhesion technology and its dexterity in adapting its gait to the varying curves of the blades. Ancillary tethers, which would allow the robot to operate for extended periods offshore and enable rapid deployment to and from blades, were proven.
BladeBUG will begin integration into another Innovate UK funded project, MIMRee (Multi-Platform Inspection Maintenance and Repair in Extreme Environments), where it will operate alongside other robotic and autonomous systems.
MIMRee is a £4.2 million consortium project, led by Plant Integrity, that is developing fully autonomous inspection and repair missions to offshore wind farms. An autonomous vessel will act as a launch platform, deploying teams of drones and BladeBUG robots to inspect, test and repair blade surfaces.
“Inspection and maintenance of wind turbines at sea are mammoth tasks for technicians, who largely manually test and repair tens of millions of bolts, thousands of blade surfaces at significant heights above sea level, or as part of the foundations or cables at the seabed. This work is conducted in challenging conditions, subject to delays and downtime.
“The BladeBUG concept recognizes that there is a safer, more cost-effective and efficient way of working. If advanced robotics can take on some manual tasks offshore, we can move our future jobs towards more data-driven, remote supervision onshore – expertise that will be in high demand in the future global economy.”Chris Hill, operational performance director at ORE Catapult.
BladeBUG has also won a place on ORE Catapult’s National Launch Academy initiative, a technology accelerator programme for the offshore wind industry, focusing on near to market solutions.