Drone Inspection  

Not only more accurate, but also more efficient 

In order to maintain the value of a wind turbine, regular maintenance and inspections are necessary - for example, a close inspection of the rotor blades.

However, the latest generation of turbines is already being planned with hub heights of well over 150 metres and rotor diameters of up to 160 metres. For turbines of this size, conventional rope access technology could only be realised at great expense for safety reasons. ENERTRAG is therefore replacing it with the use of special drones. The height of the turbine or the length of the rotor blades no longer play a role. 

The innovative drone technology not only protects employees, but also offers a higher error detection rate thanks to excellent image quality and autonomous flight patterns. 
Drone inspection works equally reliably onshore and offshore and therefore offers great potential for operators of wind turbines on land and at sea. 

 

The new lightning protection method  

Rotor blade inspection and lightning protection measurement by drone involves automatically flying over the rotor blades of wind turbines. A high-resolution camera on the drone records images of the rotor blades from various angles, which are then precisely analysed.    

At the same time, a field strength measuring device, which is also attached to the drone, detects a voltage applied to the blade root by a high-voltage generator along the lightning protection line of the rotor blade. Possible interruptions can be localised using the collected data. 

Advantages  

  • More efficient inspection and route planning reduces downtimes and saves costs  
  • High-resolution imaging and wide detection field ensure higher fault detection rate  
  • Realistic lightning protection testing: ENERTRAG is innovative in that it measures operation at 6000 V, which is much closer to a real lightning strike than the 24 V previously used for resistance measurement by rotor blade inspectors  
  • Robust measurement method that fulfils the legal requirements of operators and insurers  
  • Smart symbiosis of inspectors and specialized drone thanks to years of experience in assessing defects and classifying inspection data  
  • More weather-resistant and therefore more predictable: drones can fly at speeds of up to 10 m/s and even in very cold temperatures 
"It's impressive how quickly the drone completes the flights and how detailed the results are.  In addition, occupational safety is improved, as the probability of an accident at work is significantly reduced. We are satisfied!"

Sascha Wirth

Technical Director, Blue Elephant Energy GmbH

Technology from Switzerland  

The innovative drone inspection system was developed by ENERTRAG Betrieb and Sulzer Schmid Laboratories A and was launched on the market in May 2022. The technology of the renowned cooperation partner makes it possible to fully photograph the surface of rotor blades of any size in a fraction of the time with high-resolution imaging and a large detection field.  

Up to and including September 2022, around 100 inspections were carried out and the processes as well as the software and hardware were continuously optimised based on the experience gained, so that an optimised version of the drone inspection has been available since the end of 2022.  

The drone inspection consists of two components: firstly, the automated flight model and the 3DX™ Blade Platform data evaluation platform from Sulzer Schmid Laboratories AG and, secondly, the method developed by ENERTRAG Betrieb for measuring lightning protection on wind turbines using drones. In combination, these components make it possible to carry out rotor blade inspections and lightning protection measurements more intelligently, quickly and safely than was previously possible. 

Drone inspection also as a licence model 

ENERTRAG offers drone inspections in two variants. Either as a service, in which trained experts from ENERTRAG Betrieb carry out the inspection, or as a licence model including training and support.  

Information on the licence model can be found here: Product sheet "Drone licence model"

Proven Quality 

TÜV NORD confirms: Quality of the new method for measuring lightning protection on wind turbines using a drone from ENERTRAG Betrieb confirmed    

In its inspection on 25 January 2022, TÜV NORD assessed the quality of the method developed by ENERTRAG Betrieb and Sulzer Schmid Laboratories AG for lightning protection testing on wind turbines using drones and confirmed its quality. 

Find the Inspection Certificate (TÜV Nord) here

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