Magnetic 'crawler' trialled by Newcastle firm with energy market aspirations

Invisotech is developing data collection services around a US-developed inspection device

The Remotely Operated Vehicle or 'crawler' that Newcastle-based Invisotech are developing services around
The Remotely Operated Vehicle or 'crawler' that Newcastle-based Invisotech are developing services around

A Newcastle firm is hoping to market an innovative piece of inspection equipment to owners of high value assets such as wind turbines and oil and gas structures.

Newly formed Invisotech has taken a US-developed “crawler” vehicle, designed to scale structures and perform inspection duties, and successfully trialled it in the UK.

Using a magnetic connect, the lightweight crawler can stick to and maneuverer around walls, ceilings and even rounded surfaces like a wind tower.

Invisotech’s team of five now intends to develop the crawler’s data collection potential, and build a service around it to market to various different sectors.

The technology has recently been trialled on a 27m-high wind turbine training tower at the Blyth-based ORE Catapult National Renewable Energy Centre.

Invisotech product director Ken Storey explained: “This sector is traditionally served by rope access personnel, but increasingly health and safety and cost has had a bearing on how inspection is carried out.

“The crawler device is ideal for large scale, high value assets - and has scope across a number of sectors - not least the onshore and offshore wind and oil and gas industries.

“We’re working to develop the data collection capabilities which will be powerful for the owners of these assets.”

Known in the industry as a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV), the crawler is fitted with a Non-Destructive Testing probe, meaning it can test the properties of a material without permanently altering the structure.

On-board video equipment is also fitted to the crawler to relay detailed analysis of weld seams to inform maintenance teams.

Now still in the trialling phase, Mr Storey said it is likely Invisotech will require operators, engineers and data analysis specialists once the product is taken to market.

ORE Catapult’s training town was used to demonstrate the crawler in a real-life environment to potential investor and client groups.

The ORE Catapult structure is supported as part of an European Regional Development Fund project - the Renewable Energy Technology Accelerator (RETA) programme.

Mr Storey added: “We are delighted with the achievements made on these first trials. We are very grateful to ORE Catapult for their support and commitment in helping Invisotech and our development partners in bringing this technology to the renewable energy sector.”

James Battensby, RETA programme manager for ORE Catapult, said: “The RETA programme has successfully engaged with over 50 SMEs in the North East via a range of technical workshops and research support. Reducing O&M costs in the offshore wind sector will be critical to supporting the Government’s ambition of reducing the levelised cost of energy of offshore wind power to £100/MWhr over the next few years.

“ORE Catapult is pleased to have been able to collaborate and support Invisotech at this early proof of concept stage to allow it to fully demonstrate its technology and subsequent benefits to industry.”

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