Design and Development of a Mobile Climbing Robot for Wind Turbine Inspection

PhD Thesis

Sahbel, A. (2019). Design and Development of a Mobile Climbing Robot for Wind Turbine Inspection. PhD Thesis London South Bank University School of Engineering
AuthorsSahbel, A.
TypePhD Thesis

Wind turbines (WT) have become an essential renewable energy source as the contribution of WT farms has reached megawatts scale. However, wind turbine blades (WTB) are subjected to failure due to many loading effects such as aerodynamic, gravity and centrifugal loads and operation in harsh environments such as ultraviolet (UV) radiation, ice, hail, temperature variation, dirt, and salt. As a result, the blades suffer different types of damage. Consequently, a periodic inspection process is required to detect and repair defects before a catastrophic failure happens.
This thesis presents a literature review of wall climbing robots to identify the most appropriate locomotion and adhesion method to use for a WT climbing machine that can take a large payload of non-destructive testing (NDT) sensors up to a blade and deploy them with scanning arms. A review of wind turbine blade construction, various loading effects on blades and types of damage in blades is followed by a review of the NDT techniques used for inspecting WTB.
The above review determines the design requirements to achieve the aim of the current research which is to design a low-cost and reliable mobile robot which will be able to climb the WT tower and subsequently scan the blade surface to perform the inspection using various sensors to identify and classify damages. This robot system should be able to access all the critical areas of the blade structure in a stable and secure way. It should be stable enough to allow the various test sensors to scan the blade structure in the shortest possible time.
The thesis describes the development of a tower climbing robot that uses magnetic adhesion to adhere to the WT. As a preliminary study, a simulation model is developed using COMSOL Multiphysics to simulate the magnetic adhesion force while climbing the tower. A test rig is designed and fabricated to measure the magnetic adhesion force experimentally to validate the simulation model. The response surface methodology (RSM) using Box-Behnken design (BBD) is used to design and perform experiments to optimise different independent variables i.e. air gap, the distance between magnets in an array and backplate (yoke) thickness that affect the magnetic adhesion force.
A scaled-down prototype magnetic adhesion climbing robot has been designed and constructed for wind turbine blade inspection. The robot is 0.29 m long with two 1.0 m long arms, weighs 10.0 kg and can carry a maximum 2.0 kg payload of NDT sensors. Optimum design of a magnetic adhesion mechanism has been developed for the climbing robot prototype that maximises the magnetic adhesion force. The robot is equipped with two arms that can be extended by one meter to come close to the blade for inspection. Each arm is equipped with a gripper that can hold an inspection tool of weight up to one kilogram. A scaled-down wind turbine has been modelled using SolidWorks and a portion of it constructed to experimentally test the scaled-down climbing robot.
To scale up the robot prototype for operation on a normal sized wind turbine, a 100 m tall wind turbine with three 76 m long blades has been modelled and the prototype robot scaled up based on these dimensions. The scaled-up robot is 3.0 m long, weighs 1135 kg and has two 10 m long arms. Static stress analysis and flow simulation have been carried out to check the durability of the scaled-up robot while climbing the wind turbine tower.
The procedure for scaling up the adhesion mechanism to achieve equilibrium of the robot has been introduced based on the reaction force concluded from the static stress and flow simulation study. As a result, the maximum payload that each arm can carry has been calculated for both the scaled-down prototype (1 kg) and the scaled-up design (50 kg). This concludes the utility and robustness of the wall climbing robot as a robotic solution for wind turbine blade

PublisherLondon South Bank University
File Access Level
Publication dates
Print20 Dec 2019
Publication process dates
Deposited01 Dec 2022
Additional information

This hD thesis was partially funded by The British University in Egypt.

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Related outputs

Experimental and Numerical Optimization of Magnetic Adhesion Force for Wall Climbing Robot Applications
Sahbel, A., Abbas, A and Sattar, T (2019). Experimental and Numerical Optimization of Magnetic Adhesion Force for Wall Climbing Robot Applications. International Journal of Mechanical Engineering and Robotics Research. 8 (1), pp. 18-24.
System Design and Implementation of Wall Climbing Robot for Wind Turbine Blade Inspection
Sahbel, A., Abbas, A and Sattar, TP (2019). System Design and Implementation of Wall Climbing Robot for Wind Turbine Blade Inspection. The International Conference on Innovative Trends in Computer Engineering (ITCE’2019). Aswan, Egypt 02 - 04 Feb 2019