Research project studies UAS inspection of wind turbine blades

By Patrick C. Miller | May 21, 2015

Three North Dakota companies and the University of North Dakota have launched a research project aimed at commercializing the inspection of industrial wind turbine blades with unmanned aerial systems (UAS).

EdgeData and Smart C2 of Grand Forks are collaborating in the development of BladeEdge, a proprietary program to automate condition assessments and service planning for wind turbine blades, eliminating the safety risk of elevated inspections. LM Wind Power, a Danish company with a manufacturing facility in Grand Forks, is partnering with the two companies.

“Automated condition assessment and integration in our service processes will serve the wind energy industry and its customers with higher efficiencies, lower costs and life extensions,” said John Jeno, LM Wind Power’s senior manager for regional technology.

The research project is being funded with a $450,000 Research ND grant to the UND Tech Accelerator through the North Dakota Centers of Excellence Commission. EdgeData is providing matching funds.

“This grant will accelerate the process of developing and refining this technology to enhance energy efficiency, protect workers, save money and create value,” said Greg Thorsteinson, an EdgeData founder

According to EdgeData, using UAS instead of human crews for wind turbine inspections is expected to eliminate elevated work safety risks, recover the wind farm energy efficiency loss due to blade condition and help address the lifecycle extension of wind-energy infrastructure. 

“This important applied research is aimed at improving or maintaining the condition of an important part of the wind turbine asset, the blades, and is a tool towards further advancing the wind energy industry. I’m proud that North Dakota is a leader,” said Bill Burga, LM Wind Power’s director of operations–Americas.

North Dakota has one of six U.S. Federal Aviation Administration UAS test sites which conducts research on emerging technologies to assist the agency in integrating UAS into the national airspace.

“EdgeData is an exciting new venture in our technology ecosystem,” said Bruce Gjovig of the UND Center of Innovation. “We are very excited about the potential of the UAS inspection methodology being pioneered by EdgeData and LM Wind Power at UND.”


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