Monster Machines: How To Inspect Windmill Blades Without Leaving The Ground

Getting to the top of a wind turbine is no small feat — akin to summiting the Washington Monument — and even more difficult when the wind farm is at sea. So rather than force human inspectors to make the perilous climb, Helical Robotics has developed a magnetic turtle to do it for us.

Officially the HR-MP20, this single-handler robot measures 58cm x 64cm x 33cm, weighs 19kg, and is designed to scale the exteriors of a turbine mast and housing in order to reach and inspect the generator's fan blades. These blades incur a large amount of wear through thermal and physical stresses and require regular inspection.

Typically, you'd just send a technician to climb the hundreds of feet of stairs and ladders inside the mast to do so but that's an expensive and a time-consuming option. Instead, the HR-MP20 sticks to the mast's metal exterior with five neodymium magnets and drives up the vertical column at 20m a minute using six Ni-MH batteries. The operator controls this ascent from the ground, up to 2500m below, via an RF controller. The front end of the robot (the end without the orange hard-case of antennas and motors) houses the sensory device, which can include up to 9kg of standard video equipment or specialty inspection devices like sonograms.

The HR-MP20 retails for $US20,000 and enters a field already brimming with biologically inspired designs — like the snake-bot, the roach-bot, and the umbilically-attached tank-bot.

[Helical, Inhabitat, Treehugger]

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