Wind Energy – BladeBUG
Advanced offshore repair and maintenance robot, BladeBUG, has successfully performed its first remotely controlled lightning protection test on an offshore wind turbine, cementing the case for wide adoption of repair and maintenance robots across offshore wind.
During a recent test at the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult’s Levenmouth facility, BladeBUG was controlled from the nacelle using onboard cameras. The robot performed a series of checks and tasks beyond the visual line of sight whilst the rope operator remained in the safety of the nacelle.
The BladeBUG robot, with a waterproof covering, was able to carry out a Lightning Protection System (LPS) check thanks to its maneuverable body, which can move and be positioned independently of the six legs. Thanks to its array of onboard cameras, the robot’s LPS probe was able to be positioned and lowered onto the lightning receptor for a conductivity reading to be taken. This was then compared with a manual reading to check and confirm both readings were the same.
A lightning protection test is a common and routine task for offshore wind rope access technicians. With 38% of operating expenditure going to maintenance and other minor tasks, a repair and maintenance robot enables the technicians to proceed with other more significant repairs and checks. The result is a direct reduction in offshore wind maintenance costs resulting in better efficiency and more cost effective offshore wind maintenance.
During this latest three-day trial the BladeBUG robot walked the entire length of the 80-metre blade, proving its ability to navigate the curvature of the blade. BladeBUG also undertook a variety of tasks – all of which were performed with industry-standard tools mounted to the robot.
Director of BladeBUG, Chris Cieslak said: “Our latest successful test has multiple positive implications for the offshore wind repair and maintenance industry. From reducing the length of time a rope access tech needs to be outside the nacelle, to giving technicians the ability to focus on larger repair tasks and so deliver more efficient operations our latest test at the ORE Catapult’s Levenmouth facility marks another huge step towards the industry-wide adoption of repair and maintenance robots.”
Peter MacDonald, Head of Engineering at ORE Catapult added: “Our collaboration with BladeBUG started back in 2018 and has been an exciting journey. Since then, the robot has gone from concept to a validated technology that has proven its ability to navigate blade surfaces and conduct inspections. This is just the beginning: we can foresee a variety of applications and adaptations for this technology in the future. It also has the potential to boost the UK’s reputation for innovation in robotics and carve out a future export market.”
Chris Cieslak said to OER International: “Our next goal is to further increase the robot’s capabilities by adding a suite of industry-standard tools and functionality. As the UK’s restrictions continue to ease we can resume outdoor trials at ORE Catapult’s Levenmouth and Blyth facilities which have been instrumental in our development. This will enable BladeBUG to carry out even more maintenance tasks, and help the UK become a leader in the use of robotics for offshore operations and maintenance.”