Networx3 Drones has been expanding its work in the renewable energy sector with turbine inspections at one of the UK’s largest onshore wind farms.
The Matrice 210 V2 RTK was deployed by managing director Ian Ashworth and commercial director Caroline Earnshaw, who are two of the company’s five qualified commercial drone pilots.
The inspection of the 200ft high turbines and their 130ft long blades took just 20 minutes each thanks to the drone’s zoom function, which is so powerful that it can pick up a crystal clear image of a dead fly on a car windscreen from 400ft up in the air.
Flying 25m away from the operational turbines the Matrice was able to film, and take photographs, of the three rotor blades, rotor hub and tower.
Caroline said: “The camera is so good you can zoom in to see individual rivets – that’s why the Matrice is perfect for this kind of wind turbine drone inspection where we’re checking for erosion, damage or anything which compromises the safety and integrity of the turbine, however small.
“The photographs the drone takes are absolutely fantastic; the detail is exceptional - it’s like being stood in front of each turbine.
“However, the drone is only as good as the pilot and navigator down 200ft below on the ground. You need to use every bit of piloting skill and flying experience you have to make the most of the drone’s capabilities.”
The inspection report, with a gallery of photographs and a video, was with Networx3 Drones’ customer on the same day as the inspection was completed.
There are more than 8,000 UK onshore wind farms and in the first half of 2020 12% of Britain’s electricity was generated by them.
At the moment wind turbines are usually shut down to allow inspections to be carried out by abseiling engineers who undertake checks while suspended in the air by ropes.
Caroline said: “The second a wind turbine is shut down it’s costing money. A drone drastically cuts down on the shutdown time because a drone is faster than a human doing a physical inspection. It also reduces the time that an engineer is working at height, which makes it safer.”
Networx3 has been working in the renewable energy sector since 2003 putting in fibre optic cabling networks to allow turbine monitoring.
Caroline said: “Wind turbine drone inspection is a natural progression for our work in the renewable energy sector.”