Offshore repair and maintenance robot BladeBUG has successfully performed a remotely controlled lightning protection test on an offshore wind turbine.
During a three-day trial carried out at the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult’s Levenmouth facility, BladeBUG was controlled from the nacelle using onboard cameras. It performed a series of checks and tasks beyond the visual line of sight whilst the rope operator remained in the safety of the nacelle.
BladeBUG carried out a Lightning Protection System (LPS) check, a routine task for offshore wind rope access technicians. According to the BladeBUG team, the robot’s ability to carry out such tasks could cut offshore wind maintenance costs and allow for better efficiency.
The robot’s manoeuvrable body allows it to move and be positioned independently of the legs, and its onboard cameras allowed the robot’s LPS probe to be positioned and lowered onto the lightning receptor to take a conductivity reading. This was compared with a manual reading to confirm both were the same.
A variety of tasks were undertaken by BladeBUG, which was able to walk the entire length of the 80m blade. Director of BladeBUG, Chris Cieslak, said that the next step will be to increase the robot’s capabilities by adding a suite of industry standard tools and functionalities.
“Our latest successful test has multiple positive implications for the offshore wind repair and maintenance industry,” Cieslak said. “From reducing the length of time a rope access tech needs to be outside the nacelle, to giving technicians the ability to focus on larger repair tasks and so deliver more efficient operations, our latest test at the ORE Catapult’s Levenmouth facility marks a huge step towards the industry wide adoption of repair and maintenance robots.”
Peter MacDonald, head of engineering at ORE Catapult, added: “Our collaboration with BladeBUG started back in 2018 and has been an exciting journey. Since then, the robot has gone from concept to a validated technology that has proven its ability to navigate blade surfaces and conduct inspections.
“This is just the beginning: we can foresee a variety of applications and adaptations for this technology in the future. It also has the potential to boost the UK’s reputation for innovation in robotics and carve out a future export market.”