Eventually, robotics will provide reliable and effective solutions to many of the problems we face that require man-hours and safety concerns for the people usually assigned to performing these tasks. One of these unenviable jobs is maintaining wind turbines that produce alternative energy.
Wind turbines can have pole heights of more than 300 feet, with an additional 200 feet for the blades. Maintenance crews use binoculars to inspect the turbines for any visible damage and make the necessary repairs. As the size of the units keeps getting bigger, it is becoming increasingly difficult to make thorough inspections from the ground.
That’s where the HR-MP20 comes in, climbing up the pole to give technicians on the ground a bird’s eye view of the turbines.
As one of the largest manufacturers of wind turbines in the world, GE sought a reliable solution to this problem, requesting the expertise of International Climbing Machines to develop a robot capable of ascending the poles and turbines themselves.
The HR-MP20 from Helical Robotics improved on the idea and performs the same tasks wirelessly. This is an important issue in a high-altitude environment, where winds can suddenly gust and send wires in many different directions, endangering people and equipment.
The grasping mechanism is also different in that the GE unit uses vacuum suction to hold the device. The HR-MP20 uses five neodymium magnets to adhere to the structure, whether it’s on the pole or the turbine. While this mechanism limits it to metal structures, it is possible to increase payload capacity in the future because of the strength these magnets possess.
Neodymium magnets, in particular, were developed by GE and Sumitomo Special Metals in 1982, and they are considered the strongest and permanent.
The unit is lightweight and portable, with a user-defined payload surface using a wheel drive system for optimal maneuverability. The magnetic adhesion system does not touch the work surface and it can work on a flat plate or surface starting at 7 inches in diameter.
Technical specs for the HR-MP20:
- Weight - 42lbs (19 kg)
- Footprint - 23.9 x 25.5 in (60.7 x 64.7 cm) Height - 13.1 in (33.27 cm)
- Max Climbing Payload Capacity - 20 lbs (9 kg)
- Max Payload Capacity - 100 lbs (680 kg)
- Top Climbing Speed - 43.6 ft/min (13.3 m/min)
- Top Speed - 232.5 ft/min (70.9 m/min)
- Drive Batteries - 6 Ni-MH Packs (16.8 Ah Capacity)
- Motor Controller Battery - 1 Ni-MH Pack (2.8 Ah Capacity)
- Control Mode - 2.4 GHz Radio Controlled (4WD Omni-Directional)
- Radio Control Range - 2500 ft (762 m) Line of Sight
The system is designed to be configured for each user, allowing them to integrate cameras, sensors and different types of inspection equipment.
Edited by Braden Becker