Drones Monitoring Wind Energy

Searching non visible in wind blades

Kaheawa Wind Power is one of the largest wind farms in Hawaii. It is located on the island of Maui above the town of Maalaea in the West Maui Mountains. It has 34 turbines at the elevation ranging from 1900 to 2600 ft. We were in hawaii for a coffee farm spray drone demo and happen to meet the field manager in our community dinner organised by an associate of us.

Field Details

Area Size
6 sq. km / 1250+ acres

Challenge Given
Report the damages of wind blades by bats / birds.

West Maui Mountains, Hawaii.

Turn Around
Traditional methods took 4-5 weeks to provide the data where 3THI provided visual-thermal data in 1 week.

Project Details

Work type
Windmill Inspection & Reporting

Ground Crew
3 Member – Sameer, Jacob, Vasant

1 week

Equipment Arsenal
3 – Visual Sensor setup + Thermal Setup with 2 Multi rotor drone with 1 RTK. Post processing with computer softwares.

Drones vs Traditional

KWP had many difficulties managing their wind turbines due to the sea birds / other flies accidentally hitting the wings and not really they had the opportunity to watch it to ascertain what solution can be done to prevent.

We decided to give a try on a week demonstration where we fly once in every hour from morning 6.30 to 9.30 and evening 5 to 7. First 2 days nothing much noticed over any of the installations. On a 3rd day morning sortie showed us some of the evidences of hawaiian bats hitting on 2 of the turbines. With the help of local animal experts communicated from KWP’s team, we decided to fit the thermal imaging sensor to find anything new evidence.

Results for Future

Result came as surprise, as most bats accidentally cut across while flying, few aim to rest on a wing / other parts, but got hit due to the spinning blades. Next two days showed many instances of sea birds coming to nest / in search / in flight getting hit to the blade. All of the data has been widely discussed in firms advisory, technical & board team to find a way to prevent / better operations.
We focused on our spraying demo during next 20 days and on our time of return, we came to know that KWP team along with local conservationist’s help making nest & creating habitats for them so they don’t just end up hitting the turbine blades.
So, this demo turned out to be dual purpose fly. One for a wind turbine company, and other is to conserving Hawaiian bat.

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