Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Measure offers drones for wind farm inspection

Steve Rogerson
September 27, 2017

US drone provider Measure has added turnkey wind farm inspection capabilities to its portfolio of aerial data collection services. Wind farm operators can now outsource preventive maintenance inspections to Measure's drone pilots and data analysts for problem identification.
The service helps avert critical turbine failures and efficiency losses while reducing repair downtime and its associated revenue impact.
The company's drone inspection system has already been used to examine more than 400MW of wind farms. The package spans all inspection and reporting functions, including drone equipment, safe and insured flights by experienced drone pilots, efficient data processing that pinpoints both blade damage and severity, and damage reports and analytics available through a secure online portal.
"Many wind farms don't inspect their turbines on a preventive maintenance basis, and those that do use ground crews with conventional cameras and zoom lenses," said Harjeet Johal, Measure vice president. “Under both conditions, there is a risk of failing to detect turbine damage or structural defects on blades that can worsen over time and lead to a catastrophic failure. Our drone-based inspections provide multiple advantages that can help wind farm operators operate at peak capacity."
The company claims that inspection is 75 per cent faster than other methods, averaging 30 minutes or less per turbine compared with as much as two hours for manned inspections. This reduces excessive time commitments and allows large wind farms to be inspected more frequently. It also reduces labour costs for inspection and frees employees for other tasks.
There is a decreased injury risk in the field, with no threat of falls to inspectors climbing turbine structures or blades. And better defect and damage detection because drones get closer to turbine blades than ground cameras, capturing clearer images. Undetected defects on the blades can result in continuous efficiency losses as high as six per cent and associated revenue loss of up to $10,000 annually per turbine.
All this should increase turbine availability and revenue generation through early problem detection that helps prevent critical failures and associated downtime for repairs. It also produces actionable data, including classified damage reports and historical portfolio analysis documenting turbine defects, failure rates and efficiency losses over time. Damage reports can be customised to display only the information needed by blade repair technicians with a few clicks.
"Our global wind portfolio is currently 1033MW with 877MW in the USA alone," said Adam Brown, US drone programme lead at AES, a Fortune 200 global power company. “Knowing the health of our wind assets is essential for us to provide reliable power to our customers. Using drones to inspect the blades and towers makes it safer for our people as they can stay firmly on the ground while still being able to inspect, at scale, hundreds of wind turbines to ensure they have the highest availability."
Measure's wind farm inspection expands the company's services to the renewable energy sector, which also include a suite of drone inspection services for solar plants that was announced in July. The suite includes solar panel inspections, drone-based site overview and maintenance, site shading and terrain analysis, thermal inverter scans, tracker misalignment detection, and vegetation management analysis.