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How are drones being used in the operating and maintenace of off shore wind turbines?
The cost and safety requirements of transporting a person or team to the top of an offshore wind turbine structure or to inspect underwater components looks like quite an adventure to me.
Would a boat carrying drones that could fly or dive under the water be able to conduct inspections? Would this cut down on the number of times that a person would need to either dive or climb to the needed view point?
What would the cost look like and would it be worth having a couple of drones and drone pilot take up space on a boat which is transporting maintenance teams to conduct maintenance on an off shore wind turbine?
Drones are already doing a lot of the work that use to take teams of people. Two big verticals are in agriculture, insurance. For drones to really do the work of engineering teams which they for sure will be, the sensor arrays on the drones are going to have to be pretty advanced.
They will need to have temperature sensors, detect leaks, corrosion, sheering, ultra sonic vibrations, etc. These are not far off and larger drones now can carry more weight than a person so these are not far off. It will take a company to make these offerings available off the shelf to really make this reality come true to the masses. That however is not far off.
Drones are indeed in current use. Initially, drones are being used to explore areas where there are natural hazards, such as underwater currents in and around supporting structures where a human inspector might get swept away or injured, or even killed, should a current prove to be too strong.
Future developments in drone technology will doubtless incorporate more tools in the design, permitting drones to perform some of the active work in the hard-to-reach or hazardous locations where humans currently cannot go without taking special precautions and using specialised equipment.
Current costs for commercial drone work (in UK £) include operator ground school training and flight assessment at about £1415 as of July 2017, and between £400 and £1000 to purchase each drone, possibly more if you have to design a drone capable of withstanding high winds or currents.
Running costs include regular maintenance, specialist equipment and specialist training. Costs are dropping, particularly where setting up a drone network is concerned. With solar energy, fuel costs are ludicrously low if you invest in solar recharging and storage. Look at how Amazon is impacting on the home delivery market with this article from 2015 - https://www.flexport.com/blog/drone-delivery-economics/
Another article here formed part of a presentation selling the use of UAVs in home and building repair in Bristol, England:- http://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/doc.housing.org.uk/Presentations/SW_HAMMAR-_Solon_SW_presentation.pdf