Wow, love that image of the robot scaling the huge tower. We have a few really large wind towers in the town where I live and I've often wondered who the heck was going to go up and service the blades if there was a problem. Not only are there height issues, but what about wind and weather? This is a great application for robotics. Very cool.
I just was out running errands and saw a bucket truck of guys fixing a street lamp, but they were way up high and all I could think of was this robot. None of them looked happy to be up there and it was no where near as high as the wind towers. I'm sure they would have welcomed the sight of this robot.
Very interesting article which shows how a new energy technology can also spawn peripheral advances in other technologies areas. I would be interested to see how the different holding technologies perform in the field over time. I'm wondering how the vacuum technology will perform on a dirty/wet/moldy surface in unfavorable weather conditions.
Greg, I think the locomotive seal that they mention in the article "might" be sufficient to compensate for your concerns of dirt and moisture. it would have been useful if they have mentioned a little more about it, since the vertical climbing is the key to this particular robot. I was more concerned about the magnet version. I wonder how long the industry is going be using ferrous towers / poles and if this technology might be limiting the application.
Pole-climbing robots like those from ICM have already been used for several such tasks, climbing telephone poles and other utility poles. Helical Robots says in a press release that it is working on different platforms for its climbing robots "in the conventional energy space, shipping, and steel structure areas."
FYI. From the turbine towers I have seen, routine access is using a ladder inside the tower - a long, long climb. Workers can climb that and walk around inside the nacelle to work on the gearbox, atlernator, etc. If they need to go outside, they abseil down on ropes. The robot is still cool.
Jack, although there has been talk of other tower types, the wind industry has 100's of thousands of towers that are steel. The current size of this market as well as the vast number of tasks that robots like these can do more than creates a viable market, not to mention all the other industry applications. If needed however, we have designs for non-magnetic structures as well.
Ann, thank you for taking the time to report on our technologies. Our goal is to make infrastructure more efficient by reducing cost and increasing safety thru the use of robotic solutions. Innovation only happens with adoption and that takes awareness. Early reports mean a lot to us and I personally want to say thank you.
Bruce A. Schlee
It won't be too much longer and hardware design, as we used to know it, will be remembered alongside the slide rule and the Karnaugh map. You will need to move beyond those familiar bits and bytes into the new world of software centric design.
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