Green robotics start-up signs deal with energy giant

A start-up with University of Bristol roots has signed a deal with energy giant Enel to help keep its estimated 9,000 turbines spinning.

University of Bristol alumni and founders of Perceptual Robotics: Chief Operating Officer Dimitris Nikolaidis, Chief Technical Officer Kevin Driscoll-Lind and Chief Executive Officer Kostas Karachalios (Image: University of Bristol)University of Bristol alumni and founders of Perceptual Robotics: Chief Operating Officer Dimitris Nikolaidis, Chief Technical Officer Kevin Driscoll-Lind and Chief Executive Officer Kostas Karachalios (Image: University of Bristol)

Perceptual Robotics use autonomous drones and artificial intelligence to detect damage in wind turbines early. Now the company, founded by three Bristol alumni, has landed a deal to inspect turbines owned by Enel Green Power, a subsidiary of Enel, which is one of the biggest energy companies in the world. Enel Green Power will use the data to carry out preventative maintenance - reducing costs and turbine stoppages while increasing safety.

Meanwhile, research published today shows that Perceptual Robotics’ technology is 14% better at detecting damage than expert humans carrying out the same inspections. Perceptual Robotics says it can reduce the cost of wind turbine blade maintenance by 30%.

Kostas Karachalios, CEO of Perceptual Robotics, who studied for a Master of Engineering (MEng) at Bristol, said: “The task of inspecting and maintaining these structures is becoming ever more challenging, as the industry is increasingly recognising. There is a clear need for faster, safer inspections that produce high-quality data in order to conduct preventive maintenance and reduce the need for technicians to attend to turbines. Perceptual Robotics is delighted to be offering this unique service to Enel Green Power.”

Matteo Cantù, Head of Innovation Industries 4.0 at Enel Green Power, said: “There is no doubt that the technology can have a relevant impact on the future cost of turbine blade repairs. Perceptual Robotics was able to work with us to develop and finalize a proof of concept (POC) which is currently being implemented in the wind farm fleet.”

The research on damage analysis was carried out over the past year and released today by Perceptual Robotics, the University of Bristol and assurance and risk company DNV. Government body Innovate UK part-funded the research, which built on a previous two-year long project looking at Perceptual Robotics’ impact on offshore wind farms.

Mr Karachalios said: “To have such clear data that shows the value of fully-automated inspections proves the way forward in turbine investigation will be via robotics.”

Last year Perceptual Robotics secured £1.6 million in a funding round.

The global wind energy market could be worth $127.2 billion (£92 billion) by 2027, more than double its value in 2019, according to an industry forecast.

Tom Richardson, Professor of Aerial Robotics at the University of Bristol, supervised the founders of Perceptual Robotics during their time at Bristol and became a board member when the company was launched. He said: “With the major climate and energy challenges that lie ahead for us all, Perceptual will play a key role in our transition to renewables and the green energy revolution. This new contract with Enel is a really exciting step in growth and development. There are other really exciting developments coming up over the next six months so watch this space!”

University of Bristol
Press Office
University of Bristol, Enel, start up, deal, robotics, maintenance, Perceptual Robotics, damage, wind turbine, fault, AI, blades, drones

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