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Showing how wind farms can reduce cost and downtime

In 2018, an Innovation Lab hosted by Innovate UK brought industry and academics together to examine how the wind industry could further reduce its operational overheads, minimise turbine stoppage and create safer working practices for technicians. The result was the MIMRee project - a concept that was subsequently awarded £4.2 million in funding by Innovate UK for two years of collaborative development work.

MIMRee’s overarching mission is to prove that fully autonomous missions can carry out inspection, maintenance and repair tasks at offshore wind farms. This flagship project also aims to build the confidence of investors, insurers and Government that the offshore wind sector can make further drastic cuts to its operational costs (and the cost of energy to consumers). The MIMRee system will also have the potential for similarly transformative applications in the search and rescue, defence, energy and construction sectors.

The primary objectives of MIMRee are to:

  • Consult with the offshore wind industry to establish their requirements for the MIMRee system; develop the technical and cost specifications.
  • Utilise an Unmanned Surface Vessel (USV or ‘mothership’) to support inspect/repair launch and recovery trials.
  • Build a moving blade inspection system for the mothership to scan moving wind turbine blades, capturing blur-free images and able to operate in varying sea conditions.
  • Design, build and commission an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV or ‘drone’) and launch pad, for transporting blade crawlers to wind turbines and retrieving them to the mothership.
  • Develop mission planning tools for coordinating the robotic assets, underpinning their autonomous behaviours and MIMRee’s planning-monitoring-execution cycle.
  • Fit a blade crawling robot with inspection, maintenance and repair capabilities, including imaging capabilities for detecting defects, manipulator arm for blade treatment and repair and electronic ‘skin’ for appropriate sensing abilities.
  • Design, build and demonstrate an interface allowing the drone to deploy and retrieve the blade crawler from a wind turbine blade.
  • Test the MIMRee sub-systems (mothership, drone, blade crawler, mission optimisation, moving blade imaging capabilities) and validate their performance and reliability.
  • Disseminate project outcomes to industry and develop a commercial strategy that accelerates time to market, return on investment, export opportunity and job creation in the UK.