Sterblue recently won a contract to provide detailed wind turbine inspection reports to a large wind energy operator in Japan. To support us, we’ve partnered with the number one drone service provider in the country, FLIGHTS, who carried out the inspections on the field using off-the-shelf drones and Sterblue Mobile app for 3D navigation purposes.
However, due to the ongoing travel restrictions imposed by COVID-19, the drone pilots had to be remotely trained to Sterblue’s solutions. This was only possible thanks to our newly launched online training academy for infrastructure inspections, which has taken our customers’ operations to a whole new level.
In this article, we will take you through Sterblue’s first fully remote project, which culminated with an impressive achievement: inspecting a 101m diameter turbine in only 19 minutes!
Despite the current pandemic situation, energy infrastructure inspections cannot stop
It’s November 2020, and we’re still in the midst of a global pandemic. While the world continues to operate in “limp home mode”, Sterblue has taken this challenge head-on.
On top of building the central platform for infrastructure inspections, Sterblue creates automatic flight trajectories for drones, allowing for safe and efficient energy infrastructure inspections. Automating the flight trajectories ensures the pilot’s focus is on the image quality and the safety of the operation, but it also requires mastering the use of Sterblue Mobile app.
Typically, upon entering a new market, or when working with a new client, a Sterblue Operations Engineer would fly out to meet with the customer, as well as to train a team of local pilots on our solution. Our last adventure traveling overseas was early this year, when we helped CIE in Ivory Coast boost the efficiency of transmission grid inspections with the support of Sterblue solutions.
Unable to follow this process in the current global climate, Sterblue took the initiative to develop our online training academy for infrastructure inspections.
Getting started with Sterblue’s Online Training Academy
Sterblue has created a number of comprehensive modules, designed for pilots to familiarise themselves with our software solutions, and hone their skills by simulating inspection flights. This platform is called Sterblue Academy.
5 drone pilots from FLIGHTS, our Japanese partner, were enrolled in Sterblue’s online academy and followed the course meticulously. Their feedback proved extremely valuable in allowing Sterblue to improve the training material as well as the inspection software, using the Japanese principle of Kaizen, or continuous improvement.
“Sterblue’s support system was just perfect! Before and during the inspection period, we had Zoom meetings almost every day to discuss questions and challenges. It was very helpful. As we got used to Sterblue Mobile app and Cloud platform, we’ve realized how it makes inspections easier and faster!” Takayuki Kurihara, Director at FLIGHTS
Sterblue online academy has industry-specific courses and modules, designed based on the needs and priorities of each vertical. At the end of the course, pilots should have all the skills and knowledge required to perform energy infrastructure inspections with Sterblue’s products.
Remote training process for automatic drone inspections of wind turbines
Developing an online training academy from scratch is no small ordeal, and in order to validate the process, we started one vertical at a time. Today we will be focusing on wind turbines, but soon we will tell you more about our remote training experience with other infrastructures, such as cooling towers.
Below is the standard remote training procedure for wind turbine inspections with Sterblue:
Pilots are guided through the course from general drone inspections best practices, safety precautions, and recommended camera settings in the first module, moving to practical training exercises until they’re ready to inspect energy infrastructures using Sterblue’s software.
The Sterblue instructor remains in contact with the trainee throughout the course and frequently reviews the pilots’ work. Regular feedback sessions are organized, ensuring Sterblue’s high safety and quality standards are met.
The practical exercises such as the simulator and ghost flights are crucial, as the pilots will gain a whole new appreciation of the inspection trajectory and its subtleties during this step of the training process. They must master the trajectory before moving on to their first inspection using Sterblue’s software.
Breaking inspection records with Sterblue Mobile app!
As the inspections had to be interrupted during Japan’s rainy season, FLIGHTS’ pilots took this opportunity to improve day by day, becoming more and more comfortable with Sterblue’s solutions. Having started with a productivity of up to 7 turbines/day/pilot, with impeccable image quality at the beginning of the training, they should be reaching more than 10 turbines/day/pilot once more experienced.
One pilot even beat a record, inspecting a 101m diameter turbine in 19 minutes!
After that, all images were uploaded into Sterblue Cloud platform, where our wide range of industry experts could easily look for defects and perform a detailed analysis. Thanks to the high-quality images and consistent inspection method, the customer was happy with the results. In the end, a customized inspection report was delivered to the customer.
It is a huge step forward for Sterblue, now able to train pilots remotely from around the globe, to deliver high-quality images efficiently and safely using Sterblue’s solutions. Reach out to us if you have a project in hands.