A remote-controlled drone with four helicopter-like rotors, weighing no more than two kilograms and equipped with a camera has been successfully used to inspect Forewind’s meteorological masts located more than 130 kilometres from the UK coast.
The innovative approach to inspection borrowed a technique from the oil and gas sector where remotely operated aerial vehicles (ROAV), as they are known in the industry, are employed to assess offshore components that are difficult or risky to access.
Operated by a two-man crew sitting safely on a nearby vessel the ROAV was flown to the masts by a dedicated ‘pilot’ while an inspection engineer controlled the camera and took photos and video of the lattice towers and platforms of both Dogger Bank meteorological masts. It was carried out by industrial inspection specialists Cyberhawk.
The high-definition images were then assessed to inspect the structure of the lattice tower, evaluate the bolt connections and review the overall state of the masts. The information was used to efficiently prepare for a scheduled maintenance trip.
Forewind Operations and Safety Manager Nachaat Tahmaz said the technique reduced the health and safety risks associated with transferring to the platform from a vessel, or climbing up the towers to work at height.
“While we still need to sail to the meteorological masts for on-site maintenance, this preliminary inspection technique helped us plan that visit and assess the type of work that would be needed once we arrived,” he said.
“It definitely has the potential to be used more widely across the offshore wind industry to make efficiency gains and reduce health and safety risks during operation and maintenance.”
Press Release, April 28, 2014; Image: forewind