Cyberhawk Innovations has launched a commercial scale inspection solution for wind turbine blades using remotely operated aerial vehicles (ROAV), also known as UAVs or drones.
The company reports that its work in the renewables sector this year has increased tenfold as wind farm operators harness the safety, speed and asset management software that characterises the new blade inspection solution.
Cyberhawk argues that the launch of this service is a step-change for the renewables operations and maintenance (O&M) sector, both onshore and offshore. The offering combines Cyberhawk’s engineering expertise with its highly skilled ROAV field crews, inspection centre, defect measurement technique and cloud based asset management software, iHAWK.
The benefits of using ROAVs for data capture in the renewables sector are substantial, Cyberhawk believes. Safety is significantly improved by minimising the need to work at height, inspection speed is three to four times faster than rope access and results are delivered in both an industry-standard report format and through iHAWK.
Cyberhawk’s iHAWK Wind software enables clients to see the status of an entire windfarm at a glance, with clear traffic light colour status for each area of the blade and the ability to drill into the photographic evidence behind each defect classification.
iHAWK Wind also enables users to select findings from a schematic view of the blade and to intuitively view all images, including those which do not show defects, sorted by height and by blade edge or side. This comprehensive approach ensures that a full record of each asset is available and facilitates year-on-year comparison.
iHAWK is not only compatible with turbine blades, but also nacelle and towers, as well as the transition piece for offshore structures.
The vast improvements in efficiency offered by ROAVs are illustrated by a recent onshore project which Cyberhawk undertook for a major OEM. One Cyberhawk field team completed more than 30 wind turbine inspections in less than two weeks, with an average downtime of only two to three hours per turbine, which significantly maximised the client’s turbine production time.
Cyberhawk said it has honed its operational capabilities over a number of years in the oil and gas, rail and utilities sectors, combining ROAV technology, highly trained pilots and experienced industry inspection engineers.
In the renewables sector, Cyberhawk now boasts turbine blade inspection engineers and certified technicians (CT) amongst its staff, meaning that its personnel can take control of the turbine. This avoids the expensive requirement of third party CTs, which again improves value for the customer and ensures a more efficient service.
Craig Roberts, CEO at Cyberhawk, said: “Our wind turbine inspection service combines Cyberhawk’s extensive inspection experience with our knowledge of renewables, gained through recruitment of key personnel and years spent delivering met mast inspections and developing our wind turbine blade inspection solution.
“The advantages of using ROAVs are being quickly realised by the renewables industry. Technicians only need to climb the assets that require attention, and the requirement to work at height is reduced, if not eliminated in many cases.
With a shorter overall setup and inspection time and quicker, more accurate results, ROAVs have huge potential within the wind sector.
“Although we’ve been able to get great images of turbine blades for several years, the game-changer this year is the deployment of our iHAWK wind software and new field techniques, which enable us to accurately size defects and locate them on the blade from root and leading edge,” said Roberts.
“This approach delivers both the standard wind turbine page-per-anomaly format and a new, innovative iHAWK asset management experience. We’re excited that we can deliver an unprecedented level of detail on their wind turbine generator in a cost effective, easy to access manner.
“iHAWK marks a ground-breaking step for the onshore and offshore wind sector and the next generation of asset management for this constantly evolving industry. With ROAVs becoming increasingly adopted for commercial purposes, we expect the uptake of this new service to continue to grow rapidly.”