Ever since I had a phone interview back in June with Gerald Bush, chairman of GUWARA PTY, I have been paying more attention to the maintenance costs associated with running a wind farm. I had grossly underestimated just how expensive maintenance can be with on-site personnel 24x7 at these often remote locations. So when Donald Effren of AutoCopter Corporation contacted me I was eager to hear about his offering.
Have you seen the TV ads for those toy quadcopters you can control with your iPhone? Well imagine something sized in-between one of those toys and a small piloted helicopter you might see zipping around doing traffic reports. Now imagine remotely operating this AutoCopter up close and personal to your wind turbine tower while capturing everything you see in HD (visible light or in infrared). Close-ups of every bolt and weld and rust spot recorded and archived. Once you review the footage you can send your crew to specific points of interest for testing and repair. According to Effren, you could externally inspect 45 turbines in two days using the AutoCopter whereas in the typical scenario it would take at least 22 days manually. He estimates the cost per turbine inspected at less than $15!
You would still need to perform your internal inspections as before, but I think it’s clear the AutoCopter would save a lot of time and reduce your exposure to the risk of having human inspectors hanging off of your towers for days on end. If I had a turbine maintenance business I think I’d put these babies on the road and ride the inspection circuit.