The UK’s Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult has announced that the inspect-and-repair robot being developed with BladeBUG has achieved the world’s first blade walk on an offshore wind turbine.

The robot is being developed by the companies under a £1m collaboration project, which is partly funded by Innovate UK.

The six-legged robot walked on blades at ORE Catapult’s 7MW Levenmouth Demonstration turbine at Methil, Fife.

ORE Catapult operational performance director Chris Hill said: “This is an incredibly significant technology that we know is being keenly watched by the industry as a potential gamechanger.

“It has a clear potential for cutting costs, reducing human offshore deployment and increasing blade lifetimes. But, we had yet to see how the robot would perform on a real turbine out at sea.

“I consider BladeBUG’s first walk at Levenmouth as offshore wind’s ‘moonwalk’ – a historic milestone in the industry’s evolution. Robotics are here to stay, and they will be an essential ingredient to operating ever-expanding wind farms, deeper-water sites and faster, bigger turbines in the coming years.”

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By GlobalData

During the demonstration, the BladeBUG robot travelled 50m on a vertically positioned blade on the Levenmouth turbine.

During the tests, the robot’s vacuum-padded feet also firmly held the blade surfaces in offshore conditions and traversed through varying curvature of blade surfaces in various scenarios.

With this successful demonstration, ORE Catapult said that the robot has the capability to conduct lengthy deployments in real-world conditions.

The robot represents a 30% reduction in costs currently incurred for blade inspections done by rope-access technicians.

Going further, ORE Catapult estimates a 50% cost reduction on next-generation turbine inspections.

It is estimated that the robot will be capable of inspecting blade surfaces for emergent cracks and imperfections and transmitting the data on their condition back to shore and resurfacing the blades, by the end of the project year.

The robot is a key component of the £4.2m MIMRee project, which will demonstrate a fully autonomous inspection and repair mission to an offshore wind farm.