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Learning to identify cracks on wind turbine blade surfaces using drone-based inspection images

by   Akshay Iyer, et al.

Wind energy is expected to be one of the leading ways to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement but it in turn heavily depends on effective management of its operations and maintenance (O M) costs. Blade failures account for one-third of all O M costs thus making accurate detection of blade damages, especially cracks, very important for sustained operations and cost savings. Traditionally, damage inspection has been a completely manual process thus making it subjective, error-prone, and time-consuming. Hence in this work, we bring more objectivity, scalability, and repeatability in our damage inspection process, using deep learning, to miss fewer cracks. We build a deep learning model trained on a large dataset of blade damages, collected by our drone-based inspection, to correctly detect cracks. Our model is already in production and has processed more than a million damages with a recall of 0.96. We also focus on model interpretability using class activation maps to get a peek into the model workings. The model not only performs as good as human experts but also better in certain tricky cases. Thus, in this work, we aim to increase wind energy adoption by decreasing one of its major hurdles - the O&M costs resulting from missing blade failures like cracks.


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