Generadron: express radiographs from the air for wind farms

The Galician company Aeromedia develops a system to photograph and check the condition of windmills' blades with no need to stop

Until recently, data collection to check the condition of the blades in the wind farms was a worrying moment for the personnel of these facilities. They had to stop the generators, with the possible risks, take numerous safety measures and lose, above all, an important time that had an impact on the profitability of the park. But an idea has emerged from Galicia that, for now, is offering hopeful results. This is Generadron, an initiative of the Aeromedia company, based in Oleiros, which has been selected by the Galician Innovation Agency (GAIN) of the Xunta de Galicia to participate in the BFAero accelerator, pioneer in the aerospace sector.

Carlos de la Rocha, project manager and one of the founding partners of Aeromedia, explains that their idea arose when he detected these needs for companies in the sector. “Due to our experience with laser and optical sensors, together with that of specialist companies, the situation led us to develop and test new systems,” he summarizes.

Thus, the first steps of Generadron emerged, which consists “basically in the realization of images to give rise to a kind of ‘sewing‘ of very high definition photographs and identify the blade with a drone, equipped with precision lasers that automates these inspections. And, at the same time, it measures distances, revolutions and angles”, adds De la Rocha.

Thus, this technology allows to obtain an x-ray of the blades while the mills are still moving, oblivious to the measurements. “This is already possible thanks to the evolution of hardware and software and Aeromedia’s experience in the use and integration of different sensors, so with this we compose a panoramic image of each of the blades”, adds the head of the company.

Carlos de la Rocha e Aquilino Abeal, fundadores de Aeromedia.
Carlos de la Rocha and Aquilino Abeal, founders of Aeromedia.

To achieve this, the system follows five steps: the capture, based on a series of images already correlated and ordered through the flight plan and the various positions; the spatial correspondence, with which the relationship between the coordinates of each pixel in an image and in the consecutive one is established; the alignment, with which the alignment parameters to be applied between pairs of images are determined; the descriptors, with the global extraction and contrast to find possible overlaps and profile the panorama; and, finally, the composition, with the transformation of perspective, location, fusion and minor corrections, such as movement, and variations in exposure.

The improvements for the sector

For the sector, “this system solves the problem, since it allows the collection of data from more than twice as many wind turbines and everything is documented,” says Carlos de lana Rocha. In this way, Generadron facilitates aspects such as “the collection of data without the need for keys or other actions on the generator”, does not subject the owners and operators of the park to be pending to program the stops of the wind turbines, it offers greater security in data collection when working remotely and lowering costs, since instead of inspecting five or six generators in one day, more than double data can be taken”.

The future of Generadron

In a sector where technology is progressing at a great speed, Aeromedia is already working on the improvement and updating of the Generadron project. “In later versions, and once the complete system was verified, we would consider producing and registering (at least as a utility model) a hardware composed of a drone integrated with the PnP (Plug-and-Play) optical sensors, and on the other hand , we are studying if there is any patent registered with a similar system”, they advance from the company.

For Carlos de la Rocha, the momentum that the unmanned aeronautics sector in Galicia is taking in recent years is an example, “possibly leading the sector in Spain”. It concludes that “this whole culture of innovation has undoubtedly attracted Galicia not only to drone operators, but also to software developers, specialists in related sectors, sensor manufacturers and other companies that contribute their knowledge, thus creating a ecosystem for the development of a single sector in Spain and possibly in Europe”.

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