Automated mechanical property and fatigue life assessment of composite wind turbine blades in less than 4 hours
The wind turbine industry is one of the fastest growing markets. Presently in situ blade inspection is carried out every 3-6 month visually or with manual operatives involved in dangerous abseiling. In certain cases, a blade is dismantled and transported onshore, making the turbine downtime very high.
The AUTOWINSPEC project will provide a system to automatically estimate the condition and remaining lifespan of the blades, by eliminating dangerous rope access and reducing downtime whilst increasing productivity.
The inspection involves the following steps:
- An autonomous robotic system crawls along the blade.
- Using novel Acousto-Ultrasonic NDE technique the condition of the blades is estimated.
- The NDT equipment is applied through probes based on a gimbal structure to perform the inspection as a continuous spot measurement process to cover the blades.
- The coordinates and respective measurements are stored and through novel signal analysis techniques a map of the mechanical properties of the blades is produced pinpointing defects and estimating the remaining life of the entire blade.
The proposed research aims to deliver a novel inspection technique and apparatus based on Acousto – Ultrasonics, a mechanical integrity assessment technique, to enable accurate estimation of the mechanical properties of the blades and their remaining lifespan.
Therefore, wind farm operators will be able to identify defective areas and order the new blade on time to increase availability; hence profits.
The entire process will be automated; reducing costs per WT inspected and inspection time by 84% and 50% respectively compared to existing approach while enhancing the operators’ safety by eliminating the need to climb on 100m wind towers.
AutoWinSpec is a result of a research project funded by the European Commission Research Programme under grant no. 605451.