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A maintenance robot for windmill blades

Onne Sypkens & Sijmen Verveer | 27-08-2019

The Top Sector Energy has granted a substantial subsidy to Fieldlab Zephyros through RVO for the smart maintenance innovation project AIRTuB (Automatic Inspection and Repair of Turbine Blades). We have set up this project with World Class Maintenance for a number of our high-tech customers.

The World Class Maintenance Field Lab "Zephyros" focuses on optimizing maintenance for energy technologies. For the offshore industry, new knowledge is gained regarding the maintenance of offshore wind turbines. Windmill blades suffer heavily from damage caused by, for example, rain, hail, lightning and frost, as a result of which the energy output of the turbine can decrease, or in the worst case the windmill unexpectedly has to stop for maintenance.

The project investigates exactly how these types of damage occurs on and under the coating of the blades and how they develop. Theoretical models and CFD simulations are used for this. In order to be able to identify damage in a safe and fast manner with computer vision techniques, the TU Delft spin-off Fusion Engineering is developing together with Demcon a non-linear adaptive control system for multicopter inspection drones, that can also operate above sea under wind force 7 and with strong gusts of wind, and land on Eneco's turbines. Ultimately, the drone will be able to fly autonomously and perform precision landings, for which a navigation system and a sensor system with path determination will be developed.

Qlayers subsequently develops a printing method with which coatings can be applied to the leading edge of a leaf in a highly controlled manner. Together with LM Wind Power in the wind tunnel of LM, there will be investigated whether the printing method can increase the AEP because the surface roughness is lowered. The printing method could potentially be integrated with a crawler or robot to perform offshore coating repairs.

Based on the data of the windmill blades, collected with the drone, performance Indicators can be generated in a digital dashboard, which makes Predictive Maintenance for the wind farm possible.

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This project has been carried out with a subsidy from the Ministry of Economic Affairs, National schemes for EZ subsidies, Topsector Energy carried out by Rijksdienst voor Ondernemend Nederland.