Vestas has hired Sulzer Schmid, a Swiss company pioneering UAV technology for rotor blade inspections and WKA a blade inspection and repair service provider, to conduct a massive and challenging drone-based blade inspection campaign in Scandinavia on 1,250 wind turbines in less than 12 weeks.
For this campaign, time is of the essence. The blades of the 1,250 Vestas turbines located across Sweden and Finland must be inspected by the end of June, just in time for the beginning of the repair work season, which traditionally takes place during the less windy summer months. To deal with the challenge, Vestas has opted for a drone-based solution, which is the only approach that can meet its high-quality standards within such a demanding time frame.
WKA and Sulzer Schmid have joined forces to offer the complete service needed by Vestas. Within their partnership, Sulzer Schmid’s drone-based inspection technology will be combined to WKA’s qualified field personnel and rotor blade expertise to offer a turnkey solution. WKA will deploy drones equipped with cameras and sensors to capture and record blade defects and ensure smooth operations in the field. The project management will be supported by ROBUR company TEC GmbH, an industrial services specialist.
The offering of Sulzer Schmid and WKA covers the entire workflow up until the defects are made available on the customer portal of Vestas. In addition to planning and efficient field operation, this requires a streamlined defect annotation process and the integration into the backend systems of Vestas to allow for end-to-end information flow. The HD images captured by the drones are analyzed aided by Artificial Intelligence, and detailed automated reports are generated via Sulzer Schmid’s 3DX software components.
“The feedback from the field teams and the blade experts provides us with a wealth of information that helps to continuously improve the technology and to further push the boundaries of productivity and ease of deployment,” says Christof Schmid, co-founder of Sulzer Schmid.
Thanks to the new capabilities offered by unmanned aerial vehicles, the market for drone-based rotor blade inspections is developing rapidly.
“We are convinced that drone-based inspection will become the new standard in the wind industry. In combination with an efficient field operation and streamlined digital information flow, this innovative solution will add a lot of value to our customers. We are looking forward to seeing the results of WKA and Sulzer Schmid’s collaboration on this inspection campaign,” says Jöns Sjösted, senior service director, Sweden & Finland of Vestas Northern & Central Europe.
To respond to the booming market demand, WKA has trained eight teams for drone inspections.
“As a trusted service provider for Vestas for blade repairs, we strive to always provide the most effective service, using the best technology available on the market. That’s why we are thrilled to be able to rely on Sulzer Schmid’s drone technology to expand our service and meet the demanding requirement of the wind industry world leader. Going forward, we are pleased to announce that all of our customers will be able to benefit from our collaboration with Sulzer Schmid,” says Kyriakos Kosmidis, CEO of WKA.
Tom Sulzer, co-founder of Sulzer Schmid, says, "We are excited that Vestas has chosen our technology for this inspection campaign and we are convinced that we will be able to provide the added value that Vestas is looking for, working in close collaboration with WKA.”