Thermoflight: Concept study for the development of an optimized maintenance and inspection concept for offshore wind energy turbines with the aid of thermography and SHM technologies as nondestructive testing technology in combination with unmanned aerial vehicle carriers


Funding: PFAU (BIS - Bremerhavener Gesellschaft für Investitionsförderung und Stadtentwicklung mbH)
Partner: WindMW Service GmbH, Deutsche WindGuard Engineering GmbH, Bremen Institute for Metrology, Automation and Quality Science
Duration: 01/2017 - 12/2018



The planned expansion of offshore wind energy in Germany renders it necessary to organize maintenance and operation over at least 25 years for a growing number of turbines efficiently from both an economic and an ecologic perspective. The maintenance and inspection teams are confronted with new challenges on the high seas: The adverse weather conditions mean only short windows of time are available for performing the work and the safety requirements are high. These conditions also make it difficult to plan the deployment of industrial climbers for rotor blade inspections.

The use of nondestructive testing (NDT) methods and structural health monitoring (SHM) should be investigated with the aim of reducing the deployment of personnel for inspection work in the field and the corresponding downtimes for the turbines to a minimum. Fraunhofer IWES employs an acoustic emission system for the permanent monitoring of the rotor blades so as to identify any damage to the rotor blades of the offshore turbines.  

In combination with unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) in particular, these new technologies can contribute to an efficient, safe means of inspecting the rotor blades with optimized use of energy and materials and thereby expand and support inspection activities. As such, they also contain the potential to reduce the costs of wind energy production at sea.