Sulzer Schmid, a Swiss company focused on UAV technology for wind turbine rotor blade inspections, has completed a blade inspection campaign for Vestas, covering close to 4,000 wind turbines across 14 countries of northern and central Europe.
With an installed fleet of close to 75,000 wind turbines around the world, blade inspection for Vestas involves far more than checking blades for damage. The smart data collected during inspection gives Vestas insights into the health of their fleet and enables them to better plan and budget for blade repairs, flag critical damages and monitor progression of damages over time.
“We have a great working relationship with Vestas, and we’re really proud that we were given the opportunity to deliver this project,” says Tom Sulzer, CEO of Sulzer Schmid. “This has been our largest-ever inspection campaign, and as we inspect certain fleets for the third time, we are building up a valuable data treasure for our customer. Our 3DX Blade Platform allows our clients to identify blade damage and make repairs at the right time, generating O&M cost savings and energy production gains.”
The inspection campaign was managed by Sulzer Schmid, which teamed up with FairWind, FaroWind and ROBUR to carry out blade inspections in the field. Sulzer Schmid supplied the inspection technology and hardware as well as provide campaign management and training for the field inspection teams. A total of 19 teams were deployed, with an average of 11 teams inspecting turbines simultaneously across the countries. The efficient inspection process in place allowed for the inspection of up to 18 wind turbines daily. The campaign covered as much as 17 different types of wind turbines. Technical and logistical support ensured that the drones were flying according to schedule even in very remote locations.
“We are impressed by the successful inspection campaigns carried out by Sulzer Schmid,” explains Peter Vass, regional service sales specialist for Vestas Northern – Central Europe. “Faced with challenging conditions and with complete dedication and agility, they managed to mobilize inspection crews and help our engineers to deliver excellent reports with reliable, high-quality data within the given time-frame.”
The images and metadata captured by the autonomous drones were uploaded to the cloud-based 3DX Blade Platform, and an AI-aided annotation process was then carried out by Sulzer Schmid, before being reviewed by Vestas own blade expert team. The 3DX Blade Platform integrates every aspect of the rotor blade inspection in one place, providing highly customizable reports for Vestas and offering a fully transparent view of the blade health status of the entire fleet.
“The 3DX Blade Platform helps us analyze and determine if repairs are necessary, in total transparency,” adds Lean Frandsen, technical planner special task Nordic for Vestas Northern – Central Europe. Access to real time information with mobile devices delivers an outstanding user experience, enabling us to answer questions from management and customers at any given time.”