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Wind Turbine Shearography Robotic Inspection On-blade System (SheaRIOS)

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - SheaRIOS (Wind Turbine Shearography Robotic Inspection On-blade System (SheaRIOS))

Période du rapport: 2019-10-01 au 2022-03-31

The EU target for the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is 55% by 2030, an increase from its previous target of 32%. Whilst the global energy demand is projected to increase by 9% by this date. To achieve this new target, an increase of between 40% and 66% renewable energy is required, the majority of which will be wind or solar. To maximise energy output from wind turbines (WT), they must be operated efficiently with their aerodynamic performance maximised and down-time minimised.

Wind turbine blades (WTB) must withstand enormous strains during operation, as they are stressed by an extreme dynamic load spectrum. In addition, they are directly exposed to environmental impacts, such as temperature change, precipitation, and lightning strikes, as well as erosion (e.g. salty and/or sandy environments). This can lead to WTB failure, resulting in damage to the wind turbine tower (WTT) and the other WTBs, or the loss of aerodynamic performance leading to decreased annual energy production. In order to prevent such situations, WTBs must be inspected regularly enabling them to be repaired, or withdrawn from service before failure occurs. Regular inspection and maintenance is associated with several issues:

- Inspections are hazardous: Accidents and fatalities can and do occur. In 2020, there was a total of 532 reported incidents in the wind industry, of which 86% were associated with operational wind farms.
- Maintenance costs: As WTs are becoming larger and are installed at more remote locations, inspection and maintenance activities become more difficult and expensive.
- Operational efficiency: WTs only produce energy when running. Stoppages for inspection and maintenance (planned or unplanned), or repairs reduce their efficiency.

To address the above, the SheaRIOS project has developed a robotically-deployed system for sub surface defect detection in operational in-situ WTBs. The SheaRIOS system combines robotics and shearography to deliver a more efficient and safer inspection method, compared to currently available techniques.

The system is able to identify subsurface defects invisible to other inspection methods. It will improve safety by enabling operators to remain at ground-level, thereby removing the need for working at height during the inspection process.
WP1: TWI successfully coordinated the SheaRIOS project. The consortium engaged with industry to steer the SheaRIOS developments.

WP2: End-user needs and the market requirements were collated to produce a requirements document. The project partners converted these requirements into a detailed technical specification.

WP3: A safety manual was produced that provides the safety and operational documentation necessary to safely perform site inspections using the SheaRIOS WTB inspection system.
WP4: TWI’s shearography system was optimised in terms of size, weight and performance. Advanced shearography software was developed for rapid post-processing of the inspection data.

WP5: A commercially available crawler robot was adapted for the SheaRIOS application. The crawler was fully integrated with the shearography system for semi-automated ground level remote operation.

WP6: An agile end-effector to deploy and retrieve the crawling robot from a WTB was designed and built. Appropriate fail-safe mechanisms were incorporated.

WP7: The various SheaRIOS sub-systems (i.e. tower climbing robot, blade crawling robot, shearography inspection unit and the control/communication system) were integrated.
Preliminary field trials of the robotic crawler were successfully performed on a ground-level WTB at EDF Energy, Hartlepool (UK). Further preliminary field trials at the CRES demonstration wind farm (Greece) included: robotic climber trials on a WTT; risk scenario investigations; control system trials and shearography inspection of a ground-level WTB.

WP8: Comprehensive field trials of the prototype SheaRIOS system were carried out at the CRES demonstration wind farm on an operational WT.
A video of the SheaRIOS field trials ( and two online webinars ( were used to demonstrate the SheaRIOS inspection system to industry.

WP9: Project dissemination was adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. To mitigate the effects of the Covid-19 restrictions, the consortium adapted the dissemination plan to maximise the use of remote communication and dissemination in order to interact with the Wind, Inspection and Robotic industries.

WP10: Activities related to the project’s ethical requirements covered compliance with relevant safety requirements and preparations for relevant system certification.
WTBs are hard to reach, even for human inspectors. The combination of the robots utilised in SheaRIOS has tackled this challenge step-by-step, employing a robotic WTT climber, crawler deployment mechanism (for positioning the crawler on a WTB), and a robot crawler, capable of manoeuvring on the complex 3D surface geometry of a WTB. These robotic systems have been successfully field trialled on an operational WT and their fail-safe mechanisms fully tested.

Shearography inspection of an in-situ WTB has been demonstrated in the field.

Demonstrations of the SheaRIOS system on an operational WT have built confidence in the application and successfully lowered the barriers for a wider acceptance of robotics in the Wind industry.
SheaRIOS - WTB Inspection System
SheaRIOS - Deployment of Blade Crawling Robot
SheaRIOS - Blade Crawling Robot on WTB