Inspect-and-repair robot performs first-ever blade walk

The BladeBUG inspect-and-repair robot for offshore wind turbine blades has carried out its first open door walk on an operating turbine.

ORE Catapult

Over two days in mid-October, the six-legged robot repeatedly scaled blades on ORE Catapult’s 7 MW Levenmouth Demonstration turbine located off the coast of Fife.

During the demonstration, BladeBUG walked 50m on a vertically positioned blade on the turbine which is 84m long, with the tip reaching 195m above the sea when upright.

According to ORE Catapult, the technology demonstrated perfect adherence of its vacuum-padded feet to blade surfaces in offshore conditions, as well as the ability to navigate the varying curvature of blade surfaces in a variety of scenarios.

BladeBUG is said to represent a 30% cost reduction on current blade inspection techniques, while for next-generation turbines, ORE Catapult predicts the cost savings could reach as much as 50%.

“This is an incredibly significant technology that we know is being keenly watched by the industry as a potential game-changer. It has a clear potential for cutting costs, reducing human offshore deployment and increasing blade lifetimes,” said Chris Hill, ORE Catapult’s Operational Performance Director.

“But, we had yet to see how the robot would perform on a real turbine out at sea. I consider BladeBUG’s first walk at Levenmouth as offshore wind’s ‘moon walk’ – a historic milestone in the industry’s evolution.”

The robot is a key component of the GBP 4.2 million MIMRee project which will demonstrate a fully autonomous inspection and repair mission to an offshore wind farm.

During these trials, BladeBUG will work with an autonomous vessel and drones, using a robotic arm to clean and resurface damaged blades. The final MIMRee system technology trials are set to take place in mid-2021.