Business World of Renewable Energy

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First Fully Autonomous Offshore Wind Inspection and Repair Solution under Development

Blyth, UK - The new 4 million GBP cross-sector innovation project MIMRee with 8 partners under the lead of Plant Integrity Ltd is set to develop the world’s first fully autonomous robotic inspection and repair solution for offshore wind farms.

MIMRee (Multi-Platform Inspection, Maintenance and Repair in Extreme Environments) is an ambitious two-year project bringing in expertise from the fields of robotics, non-destructive testing, artificial intelligence, space mission planning, marine and aerial engineering and nanobiotechnology. It aims to prove that offshore wind operations and maintenance missions can be conducted by autonomous vessels, aerial vehicles and crawling robots.

Inspection and repair missions on wind turbine blades are typically performed by rope-access technicians, often working in extreme conditions and during restricted weather windows. The length of turbine downtime, and hence lost energy production, using this approach is high, while daily use of crew transfer vessels makes up a significant proportion of a wind farm’s operation and maintenance costs.

Eight industry and academic partners will work together on this game-changing new system that will build on their own existing innovations. Plant Integrity will lead the consortium and the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult will provide offshore wind industry insight, engineering expertise and access to facilities to test and demonstrate the MIMRee system.

According to the consortium, if successful, future offshore wind farm inspections and repairs will look very different from those of today. Autonomous vessels will be initiating and planning missions, and mapping and scanning wind turbine blades upon approach to understand where the robots should be deployed.

On-board drones will take off from the mothership to conduct visual and hyperspectral imaging inspection of the blades and transport crawling robots on to the blade to effect repairs using an innovative robotic arm for resurfacing the blades (created bespoke by Dr Sina Sareh’s team at the Royal College of Art Robotics Laboratory). An electronic skin, developed by high-tech start-up Wootzano, will ‘feel’ the surface and collect a deeper level of data on the blade surface structure.

The MIMRee project is funded by Innovate UK and will run for two years at a cost of 4.2 million GBP. It is expected that the solution can save the average wind farm approximately 26 GBP million over the course of its lifetime.

Source: IWR Online, 29 May 2019