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Advice for getting into the industry

Jesse G

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#1
Looking to get into wind turbine inspections and hoping for some pointers from anyone with this type of experience as far as what these type of clients want. Do most only want video footage? Stills and video? Being a land surveyor I have equipment(robotic total stations) to create extremely accurate 3d models of the turbines and blades by shooting in tie points on the actual turbine/blade. Would this type of model be of interest to companies like this since it would make accurate measurements of faults possible?

I plan to approach the managers of the wind farms that are within a couple hours of me sometime soon and would love to have some relevant insight from anyone willing to contribute. Thanks in advance!
 
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#2
So, I was working for a wind energy company for a few years and will give you my insight the best I can (Disclaimer: no promises that I have any idea of what I'm talking about). In our company we had both a development side and an operations side. I was part of the development side and when we started researching drone usage it was more for site suitability and site visits for field verification during the planning phase. We would always end up in a time crunch waiting for the survey data from the contractors during the site design and so we weren't able to get a good and accurate "bird's eye" view while we were waiting. I had proposed drones as a way to get a jump on the survey data and have better inputs. You can imagine trying to design a huge wind farm based on bad county parcel data, the latest imagery you can find (usually Google Earth), and a few site visits by a team of just a few people. A drone would have helped that immensely and prevented a few very large headaches because we had no idea something was there when we should have known.

As for once the wind farm is built and in operation I wasn't as much a part (hence the longer response above), but I did see that they were starting to use them for quick visual inspections for damage after storms (I don't think they needed 3D models, but just a set of eyes on any damage they couldn't see from the ground.) Also, they used drone imagery in some promotional videos, but those jobs were usually contracted out to full blown production companies that did the aerial shots along with interviews and the rest of the 3-ring circus.

Of course this is all to say that it probably depends on the site manager and what they want to see/get in terms of information on a daily basis as well as their comfort of having a drone on site. I am finding more people that I wouldn't expect leveraging technology like drones, but there are a lot rural wind farms in operation that were built way before it got this easy, so they may be behind the curve still and would prefer someone else to help out.

Either way, I don't think it can hurt to at least start checking with the guys working out there day to day and see what they are doing. If anything I am also curious as to how much it has taken off (pun intended I guess) and how receptive they are to the idea.

I do love the site of the huge turbines spinning in the wind! I'm jealous as we don't have any active ones in Virginia yet, closest is probably West Virginia, although one just got built in North Carolina last year or so.

Good luck!
 

ArrUnTuS

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#6
When you're going to build a 3D uprising and an orthophoto they work miracles. Besides having an accuracy of 2 to 3 cm (1 inch) is valid for any civil work (at least what I know).

Once the wind farm is built, the maintenance factor comes in. Normally to inspect I have seen crews of 5 men who are hung from the turbine to check the condition of the blades and sides of the turbine. With a multirotor it becomes much faster, without danger to the workers and much cheaper, I think it is the way to go. The only problem is precisely the location of the wind farms. They are places where the wind is usually strong and there we have to be careful with which drone to use and when.

It's not quite implanted yet but I think it's the future.
 
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#7
When you're going to build a 3D uprising and an orthophoto they work miracles. Besides having an accuracy of 2 to 3 cm (1 inch) is valid for any civil work (at least what I know).

Once the wind farm is built, the maintenance factor comes in. Normally to inspect I have seen crews of 5 men who are hung from the turbine to check the condition of the blades and sides of the turbine. With a multirotor it becomes much faster, without danger to the workers and much cheaper, I think it is the way to go. The only problem is precisely the location of the wind farms. They are places where the wind is usually strong and there we have to be careful with which drone to use and when.

It's not quite implanted yet but I think it's the future.
It absolutely gets windy out there, especially when you start getting the lager turbines that go up to 120+ meters high. The more I have seen the new guys up in the air the better they seem to handle high wind though. In the end though I don't know if any aircraft will completely replace a crew climbing the turbine, but it would definitely help spot check things and let them know when they need to investigate further.
 

ArrUnTuS

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#8
It absolutely gets windy out there, especially when you start getting the lager turbines that go up to 120+ meters high. The more I have seen the new guys up in the air the better they seem to handle high wind though. In the end though I don't know if any aircraft will completely replace a crew climbing the turbine, but it would definitely help spot check things and let them know when they need to investigate further.
Yeah, that's right, I mean just outside. Then the internal maintenance of the machinery does not affect anything. I have a friend who, when he came out on top of a turbine of those big ones, the wind brought sand. It leave his face full of wounds from the force with which the wind was blowing. Under these conditions you can't fly, of course, and neither can a team of people. These are things to keep in mind.

120m high, which above is the flight roof of the drones and locations at the top of mountains or mountain ranges, locations that are also chosen because it is windy and can endanger flying with drones. Depending on the lens of the camera you also have to get closer to the wind turbine which increases the danger. These are not simple jobs, the integrity of the drones is compromised. Minimum one hexacopter or optocopter to do it with a minimum of security.
 
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#9
Another factor to look at is Infrared. The rotating factor of the internals of these units will put wear on bearings and gears. Infrared is the way to detect problems before they become major failures.
 

Jesse G

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#10
These are great replies, I have considered most of this but definitely not everything mentioned. Right now I have an inspire 1 pro with an X5 camera and a slew of zoom and prime lenses so I could maintain a safe distance from blades and turbines and still get detailed shots. Being a land surveyor for 15 years a large portion of my business is pre-design topography and that is what initially got me into drones. They are definitely a game changer and my engineering and architect clients are blown away by the detail of topography and orthomosaics that we can turn out with them in a fraction of the time it took me to do through traditional methods. The fact that I really enjoy flying and the challenges that arise just make me want to pursue more avenues in this field.

The wind farms in my area are smaller scale, with 20 to 30 turbines that are around 200 ft tall. I going to start by reaching out to the manager over email and than follow up with some phone calls and if that doesnt work ill try to make contact in the field when I am in the area for other work.

Thermal had definitely crossed my mind and I do have access to a 640 XT through my business partner but I'm wary of offering such a service when I don't carry a thermal certification and cant offer any analysis...should that matter, am I being to conservative?
 
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ArrUnTuS

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#11
These are great replies, I have considered most of this but definitely not everything mentioned. Right now I have an inspire 1 pro with an X5 camera and a slew of zoom and prime lenses so I could maintain a safe distance from blades and turbines and still get detailed shots. Being a land surveyor for 15 years a large portion of my business is pre-design topography and that is what initially got me into drones. They are definitely a game changer and my engineering and architect clients are blown away by the detail of topography and orthomosaics that we can turn out with them in a fraction of the time it took me to do through traditional methods. The fact that I really enjoy flying and the challenges that arise just make me want to pursue more avenues in this field.

The wind farms in my area are smaller scale, with 20 to 30 turbines that are around 200 ft tall. I going to start by reaching out to the manager over email and than follow up with some phone calls and if that doesnt work ill try to make contact in the field when I am in the area for other work.

Thermal had definitely crossed my mind and I do have access to a 640 XT through my business partner but I'm wary of offering such a service when I don't carry a thermal certification and cant offer any analysis...should that matter, am I being to conservative?
The issue of thermal certification is a very interesting point. Is it required? Do companies ask for it?

When doing a topographic survey you don't have to be an architect or topographer to do it. You get the data that topographers then interpret.

It would be nice to know the opinion of people more involved in the subject.
 
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#12
Although I am a level 1 thermographer, and I recommend it, there is a lot that can be derived without being certified. If there is an indication of excess heat, then you have an anomaly, and that is what needs to be investigated. Maybe you can't analyze the problem, but you can detect it when it may have otherwise gone undetected. Don't sell yourself short. Besides, when you get into IR it is fascinating.
 
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ArrUnTuS

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#13
I've been looking at the basic certification courses. The cheapest was 2500€. Starting professionally in this market and assuming so many thousands of euros of expenditure is very difficult. This is just one of the costs to be assumed, the zeros are added quickly.
I believe that in order to provide professional services it is necessary to know well how what you are doing works, but somewhere you have to cut back. Little by little ;)
 

Jesse G

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#14
The issue of thermal certification is a very interesting point. Is it required? Do companies ask for it?

When doing a topographic survey you don't have to be an architect or topographer to do it. You get the data that topographers then interpret.

It would be nice to know the opinion of people more involved in the subject.
Actually when it comes to topography the laws vary greatly from state to state and there are lots of gray areas that could make that statement not quite true. However I don't believe thermography has the same legalities as surveying/engineering.
 

Jesse G

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#15
Although I am a level 1 thermographer, and I recommend it, there is a lot that can be derived without being certified. If there is an indication of excess heat, then you have an anomaly, and that is what needs to be investigated. Maybe you can't analyze the problem, but you can detect it when it may have otherwise gone undetected. Don't sell yourself short. Besides, when you get into IR it is fascinating.
That is great advice! Am I correct in thinking that the turbines would have to be engaged and operational while a thermal inspection takes place to locate such anomalies? I ask because all the inspection videos I can find take place when the turbine is not operational. I agree that IR is absolutely fascinating and I have been looking into certification. Perhaps I'll put it off until I have a valid customer base.
 

ArrUnTuS

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#16
Actually when it comes to topography the laws vary greatly from state to state and there are lots of gray areas that could make that statement not quite true. However I don't believe thermography has the same legalities as surveying/engineering.
A very interesting point, that's the information I was looking for precisely. Do you know what requirements they ask for in the state they request the most? It is to have a reference and to be able to investigate what is asked for in my country.
 
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#17
@Jesse G
You are correct. Doing IR inspection would require the turbine to be in operation. There are bearings, a driveshaft, and a gearbox where problems could arise. Infrared is also useful for solar panels, electrical transmission lines, roof inspections as well as bridge and roadway inspections. You said you have access to a 640 XT. Take the opportunity to check it out, and step into an exciting new world.
 
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Dave Pitman

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#18
Thermal had definitely crossed my mind and I do have access to a 640 XT through my business partner but I'm wary of offering such a service when I don't carry a thermal certification and cant offer any analysis...should that matter, am I being to conservative?
I'm sure by repetitively inspecting the equipment you would then be able to establish baselines that you could use to determine if some component exhibited heat beyond the baseline, no formal training necessary. Of course the more training the better.

And if the turbine was just shut down prior to the inspection, I would think the thermal image would be very close to when it was running minutes earlier.
 
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Outta Control

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#19
I'm sure by repetitively inspecting the equipment you would then be able to establish baselines that you could use to determine if some component exhibited heat beyond the baseline, no formal training necessary. Of course the more training the better...

Actually, the more experience you do thermal images the better and you are also right in creating a baseline but if you are testing on mechanical or electrical heat transfer overload you will need to be certified to do Emissivity test to evaluate if target is within spec or not.

Learning how to capture images correctly, be observant on external environment to be applied during analysis, talk for folks certified specialist, and hone that skill will train you to be a better thermologist than a certified one.
 
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#20
Hello,

I have been working in windturbines maintenance for about 10 years in France for a major company.
I just start a business to make wind turbines blade inspection with drone.
Lots of your remarks are good , drones are quicker and safer than people up in the air... but will not replace specialist technicians and will not do the work.

Whatever you do around wind turbines they are always stop for safety reasons.
When the wind is more than 8m/s the owner wants production. so this is an argument that you have to keep in mind, which is good for your safety and they will agree with that.

all turbines are 0,75 MW and more are controled and monitored from remote, they have hundreds of sensors for level, temperature, vibration, production and wind. so every informations are already under control.
IR camera are usefull for electical connection in cabinets like any industrial application, that's inside.
So IR camera on a drone is not helping on a wind turbine.

Keep working on it.
 
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