June 9, 2022

Fully autonomous turbine inspection with Clobotics and Ouster

Ouster High-performance digital lidar solutions

As global markets adapt to the demand for clean and reliable energy, the construction of new sustainable sources such as wind farms is accelerating. According to a report by the European Commission, the share of renewable energy consumption has doubled since 2004, now making up over 20% of total energy consumption with a forecast of wind energy alone providing over 24% of the total by 2030. Sustainability is core to Ouster’s mission, and working with customers and partners who further the marketability and dependability of clean energy sources is an important element of our business. 
Clobotics, a global leader in intelligent solutions for retail and wind,  uses Ouster’s 3D digital lidar as an integral part of their wind services offering in order to extend the lifespan of wind turbines through proactive inspection and maintenance.

A Clobotics drone autonomously inspects the blades of a wind turbine with no human intervention

The typical design span of the wind turbine generator is 20 years over which the blade is exposed to severe elements such as strong wind, sand erosion, humid air corrosion, and atmospheric oxidation, all of which inevitably cause damage to the blade’s surface, which can range from 30-70 meters. Should there be a breakage, it would seriously threaten the safety of the turbine and make operation impossible. This makes regular maintenance critical.

In order to combat the high cost, high labor, high risk, and low efficiency of inspection, which has traditionally relied on telescopic observation and manual inspection through rope rappelling, as well as the loss of energy necessitated by the required system shutdown, companies such as Clobotics have created innovative new maintenance tools based on drone and lidar inspection paired with computer vision. These solutions provide highly reliable, accurate, safe, and efficient service.

A pioneer in fully autonomous blade inspection solutions

Clobotic’s offering combines its Intelligent Blade Inspection System (IBIS) drone with the Image Recognition and Insights System (IRIS) back-end to offer fully autonomous blade inspection that emphasizes safety, quality, speed, and cost reduction. Customized with an Ouster OS1 digital lidar sensor, a high-resolution camera, and an onboard computer, the drone reduced inspection time from 6+ hours to just 15-25 minutes, all without any human intervention. It relays high-resolution images and accurate location information in order to direct and locate necessary repairs.

Ouster lidar is a component that is essential to the system in order to not only safely guide the drone for close range inspection, but to also counter ambient light (when conditions are too bright, too cloudy, backlit, etc.) and wind conditions that make capturing a stable image and relying exclusively on a camera-based system impossible.

Digital lidar: Light, compact, and powerful

“Clobotics selected Ouster primarily because it provides one of the smallest, lightest, and most reliable lidar solutions today. Moreover, we are impressed with the high performance in bright light, rain, fog and other severe environments. Ouster lidar is ideal for drone applications,” said Clobotics intelligent hardware leader Ke Liang.

Ouster’s OS1 weighs only 447g (377 g without its cap), which is one of the lightest on the market and makes it an easy integration for drone applications. The extreme accuracy and resolution of the distance data provided is key for guaranteeing high-level automation and blade localization. Powered by the L2X chip, object detection remains reliable, even in environments with rain, dust, smoke, and fog or when there is partial obstruction due to foliage or fences. Finally, Ouster’s cold-start function allows operation in an environment of -40 degrees Celsius and ensures reliability in the most severe environments. 

Ouster is excited to play an integral role in Clobotics work with wind turbines and is happy to support the progression towards clean and reliable energy. 

To learn more, please reach out to our team.