Posted in | News | Drones and UAVs

Newly-Developed Autonomous Drones Help Wind Turbines to Operate

At Aarhus University, a new research project has developed intelligent, autonomous drones that have the potential to fly out to wind farms and scan, detect and account for any ice on the turbines’ blades.

Newly-Developed Autonomous Drones Help Wind Turbines to Operate

Image Credit: vivooo/

The Independent Research Fund Denmark has been financially supporting the project with DKK 2.8 million. The project has been led by Associate Professor Erdal Kayacan from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Aarhus University and is conducted in collaboration with Vestas.

It's damn hard to detect ice on turbine blades because ice is transparent. In this project, we’re going to try out several different sensor systems built into the drones. We’re also going to develop an AI-controlled algorithm that uses advanced image recognition to see the difference between blades with and without icing.

Erdal Kayacan, Associate Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Aarhus University

The ice on wind turbine blades is considered a major issue. As soon as winter sets in and colder temperatures take over, the energy produced by wind turbines could be disrupted severely by the formation of ice on the blades. Ice can decrease the yearly energy production of wind farms by up to 80%.

The ice decreases the blades’ aerodynamic efficiency, increases the load, and can result in unwanted mechanical vibrations if the icing seems to be irregular. Extreme conditions can even force wind farms to shut down and cost the wind energy industry billions.

It’s a serious problem for wind farms. At present, they heat the blades, but they do so indiscriminately: they can’t see exactly where icing is taking place. This project aims to identify precisely which wind turbines have icing and exactly where on the blade that icing is located. Once you’ve done that, you can heat the specific area, and this in turn saves energy consumption and thereby optimizes operations.

Erdal Kayacan, Associate Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Aarhus University

Emre Yildiz, Simulation and Strategy Specialist at Vestas, added, “With this strategic collaboration we aim to lay the foundation for achieving higher wind turbine performance, longer turbine lifetime, and market expansion in colder climates.”

As renewable energy seems to be essential to fulfilling ambitions in the Paris Agreement, determining new and viable sites for green energy production is vital. This must also consist of sites in colder climates.

The project has particular attention and support by the Vestas management and hopefully lead to further collaborative research and development further on,” stated Emre Yildiz.

With the availability of different sensors (thermal cameras, LIDAR, RGB cameras, ultrasound, etc.), the project will test drones. This is done to determine the best combination of AI algorithms and technologies.

We expect to carry out the first test on an offshore wind turbine next winter, but first we have to use calculations and models to hit on the right solution.

Erdal Kayacan, Associate Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Aarhus University


Tell Us What You Think

Do you have a review, update or anything you would like to add to this news story?

Leave your feedback
Your comment type

While we only use edited and approved content for Azthena answers, it may on occasions provide incorrect responses. Please confirm any data provided with the related suppliers or authors. We do not provide medical advice, if you search for medical information you must always consult a medical professional before acting on any information provided.

Your questions, but not your email details will be shared with OpenAI and retained for 30 days in accordance with their privacy principles.

Please do not ask questions that use sensitive or confidential information.

Read the full Terms & Conditions.