Turbine blade cleaning drones

Owners and operators of wind parks are challenged with keeping turbine blades in optimum condition.[1] A combination of accumulated debris, dust deposits, and blade roughness can reduce wind turbine performance by up to 30%, losing 250,000 kWh of power and €20,000 per installed MW.[1,2]

The cleaning and maintenance of wind blades is therefore a necessary procedure, and turbine power output is restored to the optimum value immediately after cleaning.[2] Currently, high-risk manual cleaning takes 2-3 qualified workers and requires the turbine to cease functioning for a minimum of 4 hours.[3]

Drones can potentially reduce costs of blade cleaning by 80%.[4,5] A drone can already inspect 20 turbines a day, in comparison to between only 2 and 5 turbines when manually inspected and cleaned.[6] Outstanding challenges include the precision piloting of the drones and the ability to couply their function to cleaning the large blades.

When will it be accepted practice that wind turbine blades are cleaned by drones?

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[1] Wingpower Engineering, (2011), Planning Maintenance for Wind Turbine Blades, Wind Power Enegineering & Development
[2] Blade Cleaning, (2017), Stall, Blade Cleaning
[3] Deb, D., Patel, M., & Singh, H. (2017, March). Automated cleaning of wind turbine blades with no downtime. In 2017 IEEE International Conference on Industrial Technology (ICIT) (pp. 394-399). IEEE.
[4] Business Green,(2018), Cleaning Wind Turbine Blades by Drones, UAS Vision
[5] Vincent, J., (2018), Watch a giant industrial drone de-ice a huge wind turbine, The verge
[6] Drone U, (2018), Should you use drones for windmill inspection and maintenance, Medium
More information:
HeliTecnics, (2019), Cleaning Windmill Blades with Helicopter, Helitecnics
JEON, Minseok, et al. Maintenance robot for wind power blade cleaning. In: ISARC. Proceedings of the International Symposium on Automation and Robotics in Construction. IAARC Publications, 2012. p. 1.

By Matthew J. Spaniol