Six steps towards automomy

A collaboration with BladeBUG yields succesful demonstration of robotic bolt inspection.

In a first of its kind demonstration, a six-legged robot has shown how it can inspect wind turbine bolts, eliminating the need for technicians to loosen and retighten thousands of bolts per wind turbine as part of routine maintenance.

Funded by Innovate UK and executed in collaboration with the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult, the project brought together BladeBUG and EchoBolt, both fast-growing SMEs with their own separate, well established technologies.

BladeBUG integrated the market-ready EchoBolt ultrasonic technology into its product, dubbing the technology fusion ‘EchoBoltBUG’. The robot successfully crawled the interior of the ORE Catapult Levenmouth Demonstration Turbine, identifying bolts in need of maintenance and producing a predictive schedule for future operations.

The cost savings to the European onshore and offshore wind fleet will exceed £250 million per year, according to ORE Catapult.

It will also reduce time spent on maintenance, critical structural failures and extend turbine lifetimes at sea, all of which will be crucial as the European market looks set to accelerate its expansion of offshore wind.

Andrew Macdonald, ORE Catapult’s director of offshore wind development and operations, commented:

“BladeBUG and EchoBolt are companies that came to us at the very start of their journeys and already had spectacular innovation journeys behind them when they decided to team up on a new solution.

“Their separate technologies have completed multiple successful trials at our National Renewable Energy Centre in Blyth and on our Levenmouth Demonstration Turbine. EchoBolt also tested its handheld ultrasonic inspection device on GE Renewable Energy’s Haliade-X turbine when it was undergoing trials with us.

“This collaboration provides them with an additional product to add to an impressive list of solutions. It also proves that a single platform, like BladeBUG, can go on to fulfil a wide variety of functions at a wind farm. This greatly strengthens the value of investment in robotic technologies and their offering to the market.

“The companies have enormous interest from the sector for their solutions. The contract wins and growth of their workforces attest to a spectacular British innovation story that will have multi-million-pound export value in the coming years.”

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