Just when you think you’ve seen all the uses for drones, another video pops up showing the unmanned aircrafts doing something else, whether it is taking wedding photos or carrying a snowboarding YouTuber over a building.
While those videos are quite entertaining, they don’t have a whole heck of a lot to do with maintenance, safety or manufacturing for that matter. Which is why it's even more thrilling when a new video or story pops up on my news feed that shows industrial drones being used in a new innovative way — usually as a way to improve worker safety or maintenance operations.
The latest video comes from Aerones, a Latvian company that specializes in industrial heavy-lifting drones, and shows a wind turbine cleaning drone at work. The tethered drone is powered by an electric cable connected to a power source on the ground allowing the drone to stay in the air until the job is complete. An attached water hose gives the drone the capability of spraying water, cleaning solution, or a de-icing solution where needed — in this example a working wind turbine.
Ice built up on wing turbine blades can be a major issue, some wind farms report up to a 20 percent loss in annual energy production due to icing. There are several ice-protection systems (IPS) to choose from. Active systems heat up the blades to stop icy buildup, however the systems can pull energy away from the production. Passive systems involve a coating or spray and while they show promise, they require maintenance or re-application over time. That job is currently done by a wind technician climbing up the tower, sometimes in not ideal weather conditions. Could a tethered drone be the answer?
In the video, Aerones CEO Jānis Putrāms talks about how the drone could bring more safety, speed and cost efficiency for wind turbine cleaning and de-icing. You can watch the drone at work in the video below.