INSPECTIONS USING DRONES

We are committed to using drones to inspect wind farms

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This technology makes it possible to detect structural incidents in wind turbine blades and serve as a guide during maintenance, saving considerable costs and increasing safety. Drones help us to meet our goals of extending the life of our facilities and increasing the efficiency of our more than 12,000 wind turbines worldwide.

Iberdrola was one of the first energy companies to realise the enormous opportunities offered by drones.

The rapid development of these remotely piloted aerial systems has led to an increased number of applications, and the company has not hesitated to promote their use in different areas. Since 2013 it has been promoting the development of this type of technology through its investment in the company Arbórea Intellbird to create dedicated solutions for the revision and maintenance of wind turbines.

THE ARACHNOCOPTER COMBINES DESIGN AND EFFICIENCY

The Arachnocopter, a multirotor folding helicopter that has revolutionised the inspection of wind turbine blades, was a result of this collaboration. Equipped with high definition cameras and other sensors, it is capable of generating, after just seven minutes of flight, an internal X-ray of a turbine's blades and detecting structural problems, such as corrosion or hot spots.

The arachnocopter drone detects any incidents with a wind turbine's blades.#RRSSThe arachnocopter drone detects any incidents with a wind turbine's blades.

The latest Arachnocopter model, introduced in May 2018, incorporates significant improvements:

  • It can fly longer distances along power lines.
  • Its Power Grids software allows it to process and transmit the digital maps created in real time.
  • The associated Power-eye app helps technicians to locate defects easily via their mobile phone.

These features maximise efficiency during wind farm maintenance inspections, reducing downtime and achieving a level of detail far superior to that of traditional inspection methods.

All the information provided by the drones is analysed and stored for automatic fault management — based on artificial vision and intelligence —. This predictive maintenance allows us to extend the useful life of our wind turbines.

The Arachnocopter, in detail.#RRSSThe Arachnocopter, in detail.

 SEE INFOGRAPHIC: The Arachnocopter, in detail [PDF]

ADVANTAGES AND BENEFITS OF USING DRONES

Using drones to inspect and maintain windfarms offers three fundamental advantages:

  • Cost savings, thanks to the use of an entirely digital platform.
  • Fewer workplace accidents, as workers do not have to go up onto the facilities themselves to carry out inspection tasks at a height.
  • Continuous improvement in service, due to the increase in the reliability of the equipment.

Due to the good results that the use of this type of technology is demonstrating, Iberdrola is working to expand the range of possibilities in the use of drones. It has undertaken several pilot projects to inspect telecommunications towers and hydraulic infrastructure channels at hydroelectric power plants.

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