How To Get Great Footage for Wind Turbine Inspections

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The applications of UAV technology know no bounds. New commercial and industrial uses are constantly being discovered.

One particular application that’s already made a huge impact in its industry is wind turbine inspection. Drones make getting crisp, clear footage of towering wind turbines easy.

Here’s everything you need to know about using drones to get great footage for wind turbine inspections.

Benefits of Drones for Wind Turbine Inspections

According to the American Wind Energy Association, there are just under 50,000 operating utility-scale wind turbines in the United States alone.

Each turbine needs to be inspected and maintained on a regular basis. Due to their constant spinning, these turbines gradually wear out over time. Catching a weak blade before it gives out not only prevents a dangerous accident, it also increases the efficiency of the turbine.

In the past, inspections were performed by human workers. A worker climbed a ladder or rope system to access the turbine platform. Such inspections were dangerous, costly, and time-consuming.

Drones circumnavigate these shortcomings. The top benefits of drones for wind turbine inspections include:

  • Safe – Drone inspections do away with the need for a human worker to use rope access techniques to inspect the turbines.
  • Cheap – Performing a drone wind turbine inspection is significantly cheaper than paying a worker to personally climb and inspect each turbine.
  • Quick – A visual inspection can be performed on a dozen turbines with a drone in the time it takes a human worker to inspect a single turbine. Problems that are spotted are then fixed more quickly.
  • Easy – A professional drone operator will have no problem navigating a drone, even in strong winds, to visually inspect each turbine.
  • Versatile – You can perform a drone wind turbine inspection at the drop of a hat. You no longer have to coordinate with a human worker weeks in advance.

Navigant Research provides an extremely thorough look at the benefits of drones for wind turbine inspections with their report on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Inspection Services for Wind Turbines: Global Market Assessment and Forecasts.

Select the Right Drone for Wind Turbine Inspections

Alright, so now that you know just how beneficial drones are for wind turbine inspections, you’re probably wondering which drone is right for the job.

When it comes to industrial UAV applications like wind turbine inspections, it’s essential to select a top-quality drone. A cheap model just won’t cut it.

The industry leader in drone technology is undoubtedly Chinese manufacturer DJI. Their drones are already being used for wind turbine inspections by numerous companies, including Ventus Wind LLC.

The best DJI drones for wind turbine inspections include:

  • Mavic Pro – An incredibly small, yet seriously versatile, drone, the DJI Mavic Pro is great for wind turbine inspection thanks to its 4K stabilized camera, autonomous flight modes, and obstacle avoidance system.
  • Phantom 4 Pro – Though larger than the Mavic Pro, the DJI Phantom 4 Pro is also more powerful. A higher top speed and increased battery life make it a go-to for wind turbine inspections. The 4K 60fps camera, 5-direction obstacle avoidance, and intelligent flight modes are other key benefits.
  • Phantom 4 – Just because the DJI Phantom 4 is outshined by the Phantom 4 Pro, doesn’t mean it’s not a great drone. GPS-enabled precision hovering, tap-to-fly flight modes, and a 4K high-performance camera make it a great choice for industrial inspection applications.

Any of these three drones is sure to provide great footage for wind turbine inspections.

The 5 Best DJI Mavic Pro Review Videos

Get Great Footage for Wind Turbine Inspections

The benefits of using a drone for wind turbine inspections don’t exactly pan out if you don’t know how to capture great video footage.

Quality drone video footage is stable, clear, and close-up. You must fly the drone in a specific pattern so as to get a clear visual of the wind turbine’s many moving parts.

Aside from selecting the best drone for the job, you should keep the following tips in mind:

  • Know Inside and Out – Don’t attempt to use your drone before you know it inside and out. Read the user’s manual front to back so you’re familiar with every detail.
  • Comfortable Flying – Spend plenty of time flying your drone in a wide-open area before attempting to navigate it close to fast-moving wind turbines.
  • Autonomous Flight Modes – The intelligent flight modes of DJI drones will be your best friend for wind turbine inspections. Get comfortable using these flight modes first.
  • Flight Algorithms – Using a drone for wind turbine inspections as efficiently as possible starts with creating effective flight algorithms. In other words, you’re creating an automated flight plan so the drone gets in, does its business, and gets out in the shortest time possible.
  • Additional Sensors – A regular video camera can only capture so much data. Many drones used for wind turbine inspections are equipped with additional sensors to capture even more relevant data.

Those planning to use a drone for industrial applications like wind turbine inspections would be wise to invest in an advanced camera system. The DJI Zenmuse Z30 is the best around.

Though it sports a $9,000 price tag, the Zenmuse Z30 is beyond essential for wind turbine inspections. It features a 30x optical zoom and 180x digital zoom. 5-axis stabilization can stabilize to within 0.1 degree.

Yet its most important feature for wind turbine inspections is its “Point of Interest” intelligent tracking feature. Select the object you want to capture (i.e. the wind turbine) and your drone will circle it at a set distance. The camera is pointed directly at the object the entire time.

Our Zenmuse Z30 review gives you a more detailed look at this powerful integrated aerial camera system.

Hire a Pro for Wind Turbine Inspections

There’s only so much you can do alone for wind turbine inspections. Even experienced drone pilots won’t achieve the same quality of results as a seasoned professional.

There are professional drone pilots that specialize in wind turbine inspections. They can accomplish them quickly and efficiently for a reasonable fee.

Their drones use highly-tuned flight algorithms fine-tuned to the wind energy industry to accomplish inspections. Additional sensors are already installed to capture all the data you need.

Pro-Drone is an example of a company that offers these specialized services.

Final Thoughts

UAV technology is changing the face of the wind energy industry. The information above shows you exactly how to use a drone to get great footage to improve wind turbine inspections.

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