DCMC supports AIRTuB initiative, optimising turbine blade maintenance

The offshore wind industry is developing at high speed. Throughout Europe, many offshore windfarms show innovative solutions in the field of construction and operation to make windfarms more efficient, cost-effective and safer. But what about maintenance? Fieldlab Zephyros, an initiative aimed at improving offshore wind energy performance, recently launched the AIRTuB (Automatic Inspection & Repair of Turbine Blades) project to help optimise turbine blade maintenance by developing a fully autonomous inspection and repair drone. DCMC is a proud supporter and participant of the project, together with partners such as TNO, InHolland, NLR, STORK, Eneco and TU Delft.

The challenge
At sea, offshore wind turbines face harsh circumstances that affect the operating life of the machinery. The condition of the turbine blades needs to be closely monitored and repairs must be carried out at the right time. However, current inspection and repair techniques make this virtually impossible. The complex and costly maintenance operations require the deployment of many resources and specialists that can only be performed in calm weather conditions.

Developing a fully autonomous UAV
By developing a fully autonomous UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) and sensor crawler, the AIRTuB initiative aims to provide fully automated and autonomous inspection and repair of turbine blades. Besides reducing the LCOE (Levelised Costs of Electricity) of offshore wind turbines, this will help to reduce downtime, limit the need of on-site maintenance and decrease the number of man-hours spent at sea for maintenance. Thereby also reducing safety risks for maintenance personnel.

First phase: drone prototype
The project recently received a € 3 million subsidy from the Dutch government and is currently in its first phase, focusing on the development and testing of a drone prototype equipped with a sensor package.

The project consists of a total of 7 work packages:

  1. Sensor package research
  2. Automated drone Research
  3. Drone prototyping integration and testing
  4. Data processing
  5. Automated coating of blades
  6. Erosion modelling and repair recipe
  7. Asset management strategy
  8. External knowledge dissemination

Role of DCMC
At DCMC, we underline the importance of the project’s objective to make composite maintenance more efficient. Our contribution to the AIRTuB project consists of the dissemination of the results to our network as well as offering the use of our new facilities and test area at Business Park Aviolanda in Woensdrecht for the next phase of the project.

More information