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How to Inspect Windmill Blades Without Ever Leaving the Ground

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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 23-in L x 25-in W x 13-in T, weighs 42 pounds, 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 65 ft feet a minute using 6 Ni-MH batteries. The operator controls this ascent from the ground, up to 2500 meters 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 20 pounds of standard video equipment or specialty inspection devices like sonograms.


The HR-MP20 retails for $20,000 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]