Unmanned craft monitor wind turbines in £1.2m project

Air and sea craft combine to monitor turbines in extreme environments
27th November 2017

Bristol startup Perceptual Robotics is part of a £1.2m project developing a surface inspection system for offshore wind turbines using drones and unmanned sea craft.

“This type of partnership focuses our research activities on challenging real-world problems”

 

Perceptual, based at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL), is developing an automated inspection system based on drones fitted with cameras to address this problem. They have teamed up with the University of Bristol’s Visual Information Lab to develop advanced techniques for 3D tracking to support drone navigation.

Wind is a key renewable energy resource and the number of wind turbine farms is rapidly increasing. An important element in this expansion is the development of efficient methods for inspecting and maintaining turbines. Up to now, this has relied heavily on labour intensive and costly manual inspection, with inspectors climbing turbines, often in hazardous offshore conditions.

The consortium also includes unmanned sea craft developer ASV Global in Southampton and UAV developer VulcanUAV as part of Innovate UK’s flagship programme on robotics and artificial intelligence in extreme environments. You can see more on the project in the video below:

 

Perceptual Robotics was started by Bristol alumni Dimitris Nikolaidis, Kevin Lind and Kostas Karachalios, graduates in mechanical engineering, and Dr Tom Richardson, Senior Lecturer in Flight Mechanics in the University’s Department of Aerospace Engineering. The University research will be led by Dr Andrew Calway, Reader in Computer Vision, and an expert on techniques for localising and navigating autonomous systems.

“This award will make a significance difference to our development plans by allowing us to expand our systems into offshore operation and using the expertise in state-of-the-art tracking provided by the University team,” said Kostas Karachalios, Project Manager at Perceptual Robotics.

“Robotics is a fast-moving area, with new advances happening every day.  If robotics is to benefit industry, then knowledge transfer through close collaboration between companies and universities is essential,” said Calway. “This type of partnership also focuses our research activities on challenging real-world problems, which benefits us and the company.  It is great to see a company, started by University graduates, working in such a worthwhile area as renewable energy.”

You can stay tuned to Perceptual Robotics’ latest projects by checking out the Perceptual Robotics website or by following them on Twitter here: @Perc_Robotics.