Slashing inspection costs of wind turbines with autonomous drones


Sulzer & Schmid Laboratories launched a new inspection platform as a cost-effective solution to cope with large volumes of high definition rotor blade inspections. The Zurich-based start-up has been established by serial entrepreneurs Tom Sulzer and Christof Schmid.


Traditionally, wind turbines were inspected via humans repelling down the rotor blades on ropes. In recent years, the market for drone based inspections has boomed. Sulzer & Schmid Laboratories have already benefitted from this trend as more than a thousand autonomous inspection missions have been conducted based on its technology throughout Europe. The young company based in the Canton of Zurich has now launched a new inspection platform which delivers high performance and fully autonomous drone inspections at a significantly lower cost compared to its existing product based on the DJI’s M-600 drone.

Depending on the type of inspections and their requirements, wind turbine OEMs, wind asset owners and service providers will now be able to choose the technology that best suits their needs. Whereas critical inspections, such as end-of-warranty or change of ownership, call for the superior images provided by the 3DX Ultra-HD product, regular inspections can now be carried out with great efficiency by the 3DX HD platform at a fraction of the cost.

“Our technology produces high-definition image quality that is superior to any other inspection method,” explained Tom Sulzer, Co-founder of Sulzer Schmid. “Our drone inspections offer a myriad of benefits: they are automated and therefore immune to human error, repeatable and consistent in quality while covering 100% of the blade. Most importantly, the fully digital end-to-end process creates a foundation for trend analysis and predictive maintenance” he continued.

The new 3DX HD product combines increased inspection capacity with improved ease of deployment. It offers all the key benefits of autonomous inspection flights, while improving inspection efficiency, handling and deployment during field operations. It is compact enough to be checked-in as regular luggage for air travel and can be deployed easily on ships for Offshore Wind inspections.

“We are pleased to deliver a new solution that addresses our customers’ needs for high-volume and routine blade inspections. We always push the envelope by increasing automation in all steps of the inspection workflow and by increasing the robustness of our products. We also continue to expand our product range and we expect to launch our new offshore inspection solution later this year,” concluded Christof Schmid, Co-founder of the company.

Founded in 2015 by Tom Sulzer and Christof Schmid, Zurich-based Sulzer & Schmid Laboratories AG is at the forefront of innovation in the energy service sector. Recognizing the potential for unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology to redefine industrial grade inspections, the two entrepreneurs and their engineering team have developed an end-to-end technology platform that produces high-quality inspection results with ease.

(Press release - SK)