Fully autonomous robot inspectors to repair offshore wind farms

Researchers from Scotland have created new, completely autonomous robots that can control any disasters in wind farms. These robots in the form of drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) were created by Offshore Robotics Certification of Assets hub (OCRA) and can walk, drive, fly and attach themselves to vertical surfaces using robotic arms.

These fully autonomous robots can inspect and place sensors on offshore turbines. It could even repair the damage, keeping people out of the dangerous environment.

The series of robot inspectors were demonstrated by the ORCA Hub and more than 30 ‘industrial and innovation’ partners. It can repair and inspect equipment autonomously as part of a multi-million-pound project.

Autonomous robot in indoors test-flight.
Autonomous robot in indoors test-flight. Credit: ORCA Hub

The project was funded by ORCA itself, as it is the largest academic center of its kind and is led by the University of Edinburgh’s Edinburgh Centre for Robotics and Heriot-Watt University.

The innovative part of this autonomous robot inspectors has a robotic arm and can attach itself to vertical structures – for instance, a wind turbine – to inspect it, to deploy a sensor or even carry out a repair.

Robot inspector during test.
Robot inspector during the test.

These drones are fully autonomous. Along with visually inspecting a turbine for integrity concerns, they make contact, placing sensors on the infrastructure, or acting as a sensor itself, to assess the health of each asset. The new technology could even deposit repair material for certain types of damage. This has far-reaching applications, including removing the need for humans to abseil down the side of turbines, which can be both dangerous and expensive,said Dr. Mirko Kovac at Imperial College London (One of the partners).

Our drones could also reduce the number of vessels traveling to and from wind farms, providing the industry with both cost and environmental benefits.

ORCA partners are also developing robots that can wheel, float in the water, or sink below the surface.

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