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At sea energy, the wind of robot change

Robotics and robotics systems are beginning to impact our daily lives, whether we are aware of it or not. From warehouse picking systems to high-end medical equipment to mobot lawn mowers. Each tends to specialize in its own task, and similar trends are beginning to occur in offshore wind spaces. It is expected that robots will operate more safely and efficiently there.

By the end of the decade, operating costs could be reduced by up to 9.5%, according to last year’s economic opportunities for robotics in offshore wind and key energy markets with the ORE Catapult. I have. When all the robotic innovations in the book are realized, it can increase by up to 27.1%. Turbine availability will also increase, but will be modest at 1.07% and up to 1.87%, respectively.

Floating wind turbines could save up to 18.8% by the end of 2040, and up to 25.8% if all robotic innovations are realized, the report said. In this regard, operational and maintenance activities typically contribute between 15% and 35%.

“Durability is one of the characteristics of robots, and that’s one of the wins,” said Michael Corsar, CTO of Innvotek, a Cambridge-based innovation company that has worked on a variety of concepts, from crawlers to drone systems. Says. “It can work continuously, it doesn’t get cold, and it doesn’t require a tea break.”


Some systems have already begun to take the first step beyond established products such as ROVs deployed from crew vessels. The amphibian developed by Innvotek, which supports ORE Catapult, is one of them. This is a tether crawler designed for use in splash zones up to 60m seafloor with an automatic tether management system, measuring 800 mm x 600 mm x 350 mm and 40 kg. Utilizing the power of the turbine, powered magnets are used to crawl the surface of the monopile, inside and outside, or other steel surfaces, including curved and dome-shaped structures.
“We can clean scales and biofouling and carry a variety of inspection payloads, including ultrasonic flaw detection tests and wall thicknesses using in-depth visual inspection,” Corsar says. “We want to perform critical sections that are unreachable in rope access, divers, ROVs, scaffolding, and splash zones.”

This idea was born out of a “topic” about the foundation’s aging process. “The first-generation design foundation, reaching the age of 10-15, has matured and probably corroded faster than people wanted or expected, and needed a solution that did not require divers or ROVs. The North Sea needed 5000-6000. There are many monopile, all with similar problems with corrosion and biofouling. Monopile is 30-40m deep and 8m in diameter. There is a lot of surface area that needs to be inspected and there are a lot of weld lengths that need to be inspected. . “
Amphibians are now “halfway automated”. You need to drive to the weld, but you can perform an automatic inspection at the weld. “The three-year roadmap is to run the entire monopile without anyone other than deploying and acquiring,” Corsar says.

Amphibians are designed for offshore wind, but have already been used in other industries, including onshore wind, and have been proven in inspections of onshore wind towers. The company has also worked with Oceaneering on risers and caissons for transportation, performing UWILD activities, and oil and gas applications.

Innvotek amphibian crawler. Photo from Innvotek.

Robot Bolt Tension Using the same platform, Innvotek is currently working on another robot designed to perform bolt inspection and tension. This vehicle will be “equipped with more features and more intelligence in terms of understanding its functions from an environmental and tool perspective. Regular inspections and cleaning, with assets for bolting. Physical interaction. ”This project takes about 9 months and has a computer vision to identify the bolt, align and position the tool and perform 99% of the torque itself. “All you need is a go, no-go command.”
The platform uses a distributed approach to localization, Corsar says. That is, it uses a variety of sources, such as existing knowledge of assets, such as bolt spacing.

“With relatively new developments, we are starting to partner with another company that is considering BVLOS communication over satellites, which will allow all robots within the next 12 months to use low latency satellite communication. You will be able to take control from land. “

Innvotek, along with partner Mapair, is also part of the Firefly Inspect project. The project will include a drone that uses infrared technology (1,000W heat lamp) and AI to inspect a composite structure of hidden defects (the first technology developed to inspect the wings of an airplane). .. A trial system with OptiTrack motion camera technology for navigation was demonstrated earlier this year at ORECatapult’s Blyth test facility.


Another robot, BladeBUG, is considering inspection and surface treatment of turbine blades as part of its repair. The company’s founder, Chris Cieslak, came up with this idea in 2014 while working as a blade turbine engineer. In 2017, with the help of ORE Catapult, he decided to work full-time on this idea. It’s a six-legged robot, each leg with its own vacuum cup system to help you crawl around the surface of the blade. It is connected via a semi-autonomous motion system and operated by humans. The operator uses the joystick to instruct them to move back and forth, left, or right, and the robot scans the surface to plan how to move the foot.

“It’s small, compact and lightweight (600mm wide, 20kg long) because it’s designed to be carried offshore. It’s about trying to change the way we think about the wind. Now it’s very responsive. They are very responsive. Waiting for the rope access crew to be dispatched, the damage will be severe. During that period, the blades will be more inefficient. [with BladeBUG you can] Finding a problem and starting treatment early can prevent the potential for catastrophic defects. “

A common problem is state-of-the-art erosion. This happens when rain hits the blade as it moves at speeds up to 200mph, its smooth profile becomes rough and punctured. After that, this effect accelerates, says Cieslak. It’s a bit like processing a car windshield chip, but early processing can prevent catastrophic damage.
Much of the development work was related to the blade walking feature, which was proven with the ORECatapult 7MW trial turbine in Bryce. We are also developing features such as a lightweight protection system test system and UT inspection to identify problems that unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs / drones) cannot find.

“Drones are great for rapid global inspections. To find problem areas, BladeBUG can see how serious the drone is and make repairs,” Cieslak said. say. “We are the next stage of follow-up inspection, repairing or providing detailed information to land repair specialists, which means that the rope access team can go and it’s not surprising.”

The next goal is a repair module that cleans and sands the area before processing. Imagine a power thunder moving across the blade surface using a BladeBUG body with the same control as a CNC machine, says Cieslak. The challenge is certification, but it will come, he says.

The vision for the future is a fully autonomous tetherless system that is controlled from the shore and operates from turbine to turbine or as a resident robot for each turbine to support future live online surveillance systems. But it’s still in its infancy. The company plans many early recruitment trials.

Bladebug being tried on the ORE Catapult Levenmouth Demonstration Turbo. Courtesy of Blade BUG

Deployment from USV

Much focus has been placed on the use of uncrewed spacecraft (USV). These are already regularly used for field survey work. Many are trying to deploy underwater robots from USV. Fugro has already done this for inspection work using the Blue Essence USV, and there are plans for large vehicles. However, we do offer drones or blade crawl robots through USV, which many consider to offer significant opportunities.
Wind Turbine Unmanned Inspection Drone Swarm (Dr-SUIT for short) aims to deploy an aerial drone for offshore wind power plant inspection from USV and is currently Airborne Robotics with partners Ocean Infinity, University of Portsmouth and Bentley Telecom. Is taking the lead. The group says it plans to demonstrate the system in 2022.


This follows the MIMRee project (maintenance and repair of multi-platform inspections in extreme environments). The vision of the project, which ended last year for just two years, was for Thales Halcyon USV to detect blade defects using a dashcam system developed by Thales during the project that could scan moving blades. You can then signal the blade to stop and launch a drone that can be repaired with a six-legged “blade crawler”.

“It’s a very ambitious and positive approach, and we’ve tried to figure out how far we can go on that roadmap,” said Hamish Macdonald, project engineer at ORECatapult. “In the end, I achieved some of the things I thought were very impressive prototype technologies that could be tested in a typical environment.”

This includes landing the drone on the USV. This includes developing global mission planning software that conveys everything to the drone, as well as the mobile turbine camera system that was the idea at the start of the project. A deployment system was developed for drones to carry crawlers (an early prototype of BladeBUG was used), which was reduced to a weight limit of 25 kg during the project, enforced by the British Civil Aviation Authority. I had to be satisfied with it.

“We see that we have a short-term opportunity to focus on commercialization faster and have other considerations related to more advanced operations and repairs,” says McDonald’s. ..

An early victory is to perform more drone inspections remotely via USV, he says.

“I think wind farm developers want this kind of innovation. Robotics is an area of ​​innovation that stays here, and we want it to be robust and commercial enough as a solution,” McDonald’s said. Says. “It’s really helpful to see a project like MIMRee. In the short term, I think they also want to explore.”

The MIMRee project tested an aerial drone landing on a Thales unmanned spacecraft (USV). Photo from ORECatapult.


All of this requires these multiple robots to communicate. Future plans plan for each wind farm to connect its own communications platform to the coast and establish a local wireless connection for the ecosystem of other robots operating in that environment within the wind farm, Corsar said. say.

“The farm hub provides more than just communication, powers the crawlers, and the fruit hanging in this space is the UAV,” he says. “On our platform, it’s probably a low-earth orbit satellite link to the coast because it’s more ubiquitous to use satellite communications than farm-specific communications. However, due to bandwidth issues, there’s a lot of data. You need to develop a control system that does not need to pass. “

But before this vision comes true, there are still some ways to go. Amphibians have gained traction in the oil and gas sector, despite being designed for offshore wind. “Oil and gas are very mature in terms of integrity management. Offshore wind is not very mature in inspection requirements and technology. It’s a young industry that is still stepping in. Similarly, its Assets are young and do not fall apart, so there are many factors that are blocking us. [in offshore wind].. “

https://www.oedigital.com/news/496146-in-offshore-energy-the-winds-of-robotic-change-are-blowing At sea energy, the wind of robot change

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