Wind farm maintenance robot wins funding

Thales’ Halcyon autonomous surface vessel will play a key role in MIMRee. Credit: MIMRee

A project involving the Universities of Bristol, Manchester, and Royal Holloway, along with Wootzano, a British company specialising in the development of electronic skin for robots, has been awarded GBP4.2 million (USD5.3 million) in government funding.

The project plans to create a system of crawling robots, teamed with Thales’ Halcyon driverless boats to repair offshore wind farms. Drones will be used to detect any damage to the wind turbines and the crawling robots will then be lifted onto the turbine blades to carry out the repair work.

The two-year long project will use suction pads, provided by BladeBUG robots, for the machine to crawl along the turbine blades. The Royal College of Arts and Robotics laboratory will be developing the robot arm. It has been estimated that, should the project be successful, the robots could save about GBP26 million in repair work for the average wind farm.

Martin Bourton, principal project leader at Plant Integrity, said, “the moment when an autonomous mother ship and robotic crew sail in UK waters will be a world first. Some of the technologies are fully developed, like the autonomous vessel”.