Danish firm to incorporate AI into its blade maintenance robot
Robotic blade maintenance firm Rope Robotics has begun testing its robots on offshore wind turbines and is planning its launch them commercially by 2024. According to the firm, turbine owners see a return on investment in their robot repair service within just six months. The patented robot, BR-8, which has repaired over 150 rain-damaged onshore wind turbine blades, now plans to integrate Artificial Intelligence in the future.
The Denmark-based company, founded in 2016, is one of the pioneers in robotic wind turbine blade repair and maintenance solutions. “Feedback from customers so far confirms our calculations that after six months, the investment in the robot repair service has paid off,” Martin Huus Bjerge, CEO of Rope Robotics, said in a press release.
Rain erosion damage is detrimental to the aerodynamic performance of the blade and can even lead to blade failure. Rope Robotics offers quick, cost-effective, and efficient repairs to restore turbine power output.
"Efficient leading-edge repair contributes to life extension of one of the most expensive components on a wind turbine accounting for some 25 to 30 percent of the build cost."
A three-stage repair process
According to the firm, the 150-kg robot attached to ropes is hoisted some 100 meters from the ground onto the damaged blade, which has been fixed in a vertical position.
"A vacuum system allows the robot to attach itself firmly while motors enable movement across the blade. Using its onboard high-resolution camera and laser scanner, the robot inspects the surface, sending images to the remote operator, who diagnoses the damage and initiates the repair process in real-time."
The subsequent repair consists of three phases. The first one starts with the equipment sanding the damaged area. A second tool cleans the surface using a brush and alcohol to remove dirt and grease. This is followed by a dosing tool that applies the leading-edge protective (LEP) material. In contrast, the spreader tool "rebuilds the optimal aerodynamic blade shape, smoothening the material to pre-defined standards."
Plans for autonomous repairs powered by AI
The firm is looking to leverage the results from over 150 repair works performed worldwide. The data will enable the company to develop Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities to offer autonomous repairs in the future.
"The robot has been proven in the field at wind speeds of up to 14 meters per second, relative humidity of up to 80 percent, and temperatures from 0 to 40 degrees Celsius."
The company said that test repairs on offshore wind turbines are underway. Rope Robotics plans to launch them at the end of this year commercially.
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