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An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) (or uncrewed aerial vehicle, commonly known as a drone and rarely as an uninhabited aerial vehicle or unoccupied aerial vehicle) is an aircraft without a human pilot on board and a type of unmanned vehicle. UAVs are a component of an unmanned aircraft system (UAS); which include a UAV, a ground-based controller, and a system of communications between the two. The flight of UAVs may operate with various degrees of autonomy: either under remote control by a human operator, autonomously by onboard computers or piloted by an autonomous robot.
Compared to crewed aircraft, UAVs were originally used for missions too “dull, dirty or dangerous” for humans. While they originated mostly in military applications, their use is rapidly expanding to commercial, scientific, recreational, agricultural, and other applications, such as policing and surveillance, product deliveries, aerial photography, infrastructure inspections, smuggling, and drone racing. Civilian UAVs now vastly outnumber military UAVs, with estimates of over a million sold by 2015.
So can I fly my drone near a wind turbine?
Although it is not illegal to fly a drone near a wind turbine, it is not a good idea as they can become damaged or blown around by high wind. Some people actually like to fly drones near wind turbines in order to fly through the turbines and practice maneuvering around them.
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If you would like to know more about flying drones near a wind turbine, you will want to keep reading this article. You can also check out this video!
Drones are a very common sight these days. Not all drones are the same though. Each drone has its own unique feature and functionality. They are a very powerful and advanced piece of technology. There are broadly two different categories of drone, consumer drones, and commercial or industrial drones.
Consumer drones cost almost one-third of the cost of commercial drones and they have been built for different purposes then a commercial drone. Consumer drones are unsafe to fly at wind farms or near wind turbines. There are a couple of reasons as to why consumer drones should not be flown near a wind turbine. Some of those reasons are given below.
- Consumer drones are unsafe to operate in high wind conditions which is usually found near wind turbines.
- Consumer drones can become unstable and a sudden gust of wind can lead it to crash into the wind turbine, damaging its blades.
- Consumer drones are known to face GPS problems near a wind turbine.
- Consumer drones are known to have remote connectivity issues when flying close to a wind turbine.
- Consumer drones are likely to crash when flying close to a wind turbine because of Electromagnetic interference (EMI).
Although it is not safe to fly consumer drones in close proximity to a wind turbine, commercial drones or industrial drones are widely used today to inspect wind turbines in wind farms all across the globe. Commercial drones not only provide a cost-effective solution to the inspection of wind turbines but also inspection of all other related infrastructure such as feed poles, collector lines, and electrical substations.
To operate a commercial or industrial drone near a wind turbine is a highly skilled job and requires a skilled workforce. The use of drones for inspection of wind turbines provides operational efficiency. There are also many other benefits of using a drone for wind turbine inspection. Some of those benefits are given below.
- Drones provide a much safer working environment for everybody rather than climbing physically to inspect the turbines.
- The use of drones reduces downtime because they do not interfere with the regular working of the wind turbine and there is no loss in time due to shut down.
- Drones take high-quality images and video which revels damages to wind turbine blades or other parts which help in carrying out a timely repair.
- Drones can take infrared thermographic images which will help you identify erosion, corrosion, hidden defects, imminent structural failures and weakness in the wind turbine blades.
Commercial drones are also used to clean, and used for providing general maintenance to wind turbines which helps increase their power efficiency. One such commercial drone is built by the Latvian Firm Aerones. These super-powerful drones use advanced technology to lift as much as 220 pounds and have up to 36 propellers. They are used not only by the renewable energy sector but also by a variety of other organizations, business enterprises and rescue operations during an emergency situation.
Autonomous Commercial Drones
High-end commercial drones use algorithms to find and take the quickest and safest routes and they are usually autonomous. Today, due to huge advances in the fields of science and technology, drones are proving themselves to be a cost-effective solution provider in the wind energy industry. Commercial drones built with artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities allows those who operate such drones to collect data and provide instant analysis consistently.
Raw data sets are used to find and identify defects from inspection imagery of wind turbines taken by high-end drones. This allows the classification of identified problems and to find the best-recommended solution to avoid financial loss and unwanted accidents.
Autonomous commercial drones flying in close proximity of a wind turbine can reveal a lot of things about the wind turbine, including how to maximize its operational efficiency and to collect data perhaps after a storm or during bad weather, to better forecast its energy output or to find any damages it has already endured. One such automated drone inspection system has been built by Ann Arbor which is a startup from Michigan. Their drones help collect valuable data from wind farms and help detect cracks in wind turbine blades within minutes of operation. An initiative such as this is not only changing the renewable wind industry through innovation but also helping save the planet by helping to provide clean energy more efficiently at a lower cost of operation.
Drones help in the effective proactive maintenance of wind turbines and save money because they provide data and analysis on how to carry out the most effective preventative maintenance.
Although you should not fly your regular consumer drones near a wind turbine, you can always have access to fly a commercial drone near a wind turbine if the need arises. When flying non-autonomous drones near a wind turbine you should always take into account your safety and the safety of the wind turbine and those around you by following safety regulations related to flight operation of the drone in use.
You will also need weatherproofing because of the high winds that you will usually face in and around the wind sites of a particular wind turbine. Only specialized drones with camera lens coatings and drones which are not affected by the Electromagnetic interference (EMI) of a wind turbine can fly near a wind turbine.
There are also various other regulations and laws which prohibit the flying of drones near wind turbines because they are part of the critical power generating infrastructure of a country. This is why you should always make sure you are the owner of the turbine, or you have permission to fly your drone near them.