We want to develop a robotic device which will perform inspections and maintenance on wind turbine blades. Currently this is done by technicians who inspect and repair the blades. The BladeBUG robotic platform will minimise the need for this type of human intervention, significantly reducing Health & Safety risks.
The inspiration for BladeBUG came from the founder, Chris Cieslak, who has worked for several years as a wind turbine blade designer and spotted a gap in the market for a robotic solution for wind turbine blade inspections and repairs.
The Imperial College Advanced Hackspace played a really important role in helping us form the BladeBUG team. As part of the Hackers in Residence scheme, Chris was working on the BladeBUG project at the Hackspace offices and it was there he met Aksat who, at the time, was working as a Hackspace Fellow. Aksat has considerable experience with walking robots and, having seen the project develop, he became interested in the BladeBUG concept. It was an easy decision for Chris to ask Aksat to become BladeBUG’s first employee and, through Aksat, the other members of the team all showed interest in the project and subsequently joined.
Support from Hackspace and the wider Imperial community
The Hackspace has supported BladeBUG when the concept was nothing more than just an idea. It provided space to work and turn the idea into reality in the form of a prototype robot. The markforged printer at Hackspace enabled the manufacture of professional looking and structural elements of the robot and the laser cutter was fantastic for fast prototyping elements to quickly test if they would work. By far, one of the most positive aspects of working from the Hackspace was being around other startups that, whilst working on completely different businesses, had so many common issues and problems to overcome. The camaraderie between the fellow startups was great, and we were able to advise each other on different issues that we had managed to overcome.
We have an advisor who was introduced to us from another startup at Hackspace who provides a sounding board for business development activities. We also have two mentors, both of whom were introduced to BladeBUG through the Imperial Venture Mentoring Service. These mentors have been providing expert guidance in the hardware and software development of the robotic device. In addition to these, BladeBUG have been getting business advice from the experts in residence at the Imperial Enterprise Lab.
If we had to use three words to sum up the Hackspace they would be accessible, friendly and helpful.
The Hackspace has supported BladeBUG when the concept was nothing more than just an idea. It provided space to work and turn the idea into reality in the form of a prototype robot.
Successes and learning
It was fantastic to be awarded an Innovate UK grant and to forge a collaboration with the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult. It has been a real success for us to grow our team to four full time employees.
Thankfully, in terms of setbacks, we have so far not experienced that many, although there may be some in the future. One that does springs to mind is when the Hackers in Residence scheme was closed, although that did have an upside in that it motivated us to get our own premises. In hindsight, this was the best thing that we could have done at that point.
Advice for aspiring makers, hackers, inventors or entrepreneurs
Give it a go!
The next step for us is seeking private investment to provide security beyond the current Innovate UK funding during the transition from R&D into a fully commercial business.