With the EU's focus on renewable energy, giant wind wheels, at times arranged in huge windfarms, other times in isolation, have been sprouting across the continent. With their enormous size (individual blades reach lengths of up to 60m!), airy heights, and typically remote (offshore) locations, regular inspection of the blades is a major headache.
Following a two and a half year research project researchers at Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Factory Operation and Automation IFF have now unveiled a rope climbing robot which can independently inspect blades on all types of wind energy converters. The 16 DOF robot platform autonomously maneuvers up and down ropes lowered next to the blades. Its inspection system uses an infrared radiator to heat rotor blades in combination with a high-resolution thermal camera as well as an ultrasonic system to regularly monitor the rotor blades'' condition and detect any external or internal signs of damage.
Unfortunately the press release does not mention projected costs for the robot nor when you can expect to see one on a wind turbine near you. Some technical information is available in a short project description (PDF).