Great Yarmouth-based ATAM Group has tested its robotic crawler, developed for the inspection of wind turbine blades, on the full-size turbine training tower and along test blades at ORE Catapult’s facilities in Northumberland, which is offered as part of a GBP 50,000 grant awarded to ATAM from the GBP 6 million SCORE Innovation fund.
The trials enabled the ATAM team to identify any shortcomings on its device, called Inspection Mag.
ATAM managing director Mark Loades said: "Our original plan was to have the robot gripping and travelling along the outside of the blade, but the tests at ORE Catapult ruled that out, so we are switching to a magnetic crawler on the tower, with a high definition camera to look for blade damage, and an arm which extends to touch and test the blade lightning conductors."
Andrew Tipping, commercialisation manager at ORE Catapult, said the full- size wind turbine blade at ground level was "the closest they could get to the real thing."
"ATAM couldn’t go to a wind farm operator and ask them to shut down a turbine for their research and development, which is why we have our facilities," Tipping said. "They had a lot of dialogue with our engineering team on the day, spending half a day trialling the crawler and the other half was spent with the team discussing their technology. ATAM has plenty of knowledge in oil and gas but they were able to take away a lot of information about the offshore wind industry’s needs to support their continued technology development."
Andrew Tipping further added that a blade conference was being held at ORE Catapult on the day ATAM visited, allowing the ATAM team to speak with companies involved in blade inspections and make potential new business links.