Researchers from Japan have developed a methodology for using drones to inspect wind turbines without shutdown, significantly impacting the cost of maintenance.
The past decade, according to the Columbia Climate School, the use of drones in applied research skyrocketed as the technology size and prices decreased while the capabilities of cameras, sensors and battery power increased. That is true across fields—health, ecologically, environmentally, and more.
Today, researchers are even applying drones to optimize the production of alternative energy in the hardest-to-reach places: offshore wind turbines.
Energy produced by wind is vital to the global adoption of renewable energy sources; however, the costs of operations and maintenance remain an obstacle, especially for offshore wind turbines. A 2022 report from the International Energy Agency found that wind electricity generation increased at a record level of 273 TWh (17 percent) in 2021—55 percent higher growth than achieved in 2020 and, “the highest among all renewable power energies.” Yet, this report states that “the operation and maintenance cost is very high for wind turbines, accounting for almost 30% of the total wind turbine cost, which is one of the major factors hindering market growth.” The two largest cost drivers for wind turbine operational expenditures are the distance from the project to the maintenance facilities and the meteorological climate at the project site, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
Researchers with NTT recently unveiled a solution. By using two drones, researchers developed a system by which the wind turbines may be monitored for performance and damage without having to first turn the turbines off, greatly limiting the energy production that is typically lost during inspection downtime.
Soaring to new heights, together.
Be sure to visit the BWU Technology Partnerships Initiative website to learn more about how our NEOFIX program drives economic growth, promotes policy and infrastructure to improve drone safety and efficiency in various industries, and ensures that drone technology is being used responsibly.