PORTUGAL - Telecoms & IT
André Moura is the CEO & Founder of BladeInsight, a technology company in the wind industry focused on delivering tailored solutions to optimize O&M for the full lifecycle of wind turbine blades. With a background in marine renewable energy, André was involved in the testing, deployment, and assessment of innovative technologies and coordinating several research grants. Rooted in this experience in innovation management and his passion to contribute to renewable energy, in 2015, André founded BladeInsight (named Prodrone until mid 2020), taking the company from ideation to commercialization. In his free time, André is a keen sailor and surfer.
Can you please introduce your company to our readers?
André Moura: BladeInsight is a tech company delivering innovative solutions to the wind energy industry, with a strong focus on wind turbine blades. Our solutions enable the optimization of operation and maintenance of wind energy infrastructure through automation and digitalization, empowering owners to deliver higher output and optimize their yields from investment, driving down the cost of wind energy. By combining advanced robotics and analytics with blade expertise, we tackle one of the biggest challenges of wind farm development projects – shifting the industry into continuous, comprehensive blade Operations & Maintenance (O&M). BladeInsight was founded with the clear goal to contribute to the transition to renewable energy by making wind energy a cost-effective energy source. It is important to recognize how critical wind energy is expected to be to the future of our planet and economy – it is projected to become the world’s largest source of energy by 2050. However, it must also be recognized that the industry has a lot to mature and still relies on very inefficient methods to manage O&M. To address this, I envisioned a solution that would leverage autonomous drone technology to collect data from wind turbine blades – a solution that reached the market in 2017 and has delivered over 22,000 reliable, safe, and cost-effective inspections since. As we have developed and grown, we shifted towards a more holistic approach to blade O&M by offering a suite of integrated solutions that deliver value to the whole blade value chain, which currently includes the autonomous drone solution, an internal inspection solution and our blade management software to manage inspections and maintenance operations, delivering visibility and efficiency throughout the full blade lifecycle. Our ultimate goal is to be able to help the industry to drive down the cost of maintenance, increasing uptime and blade longevity.
What are the recent milestones and highlights you achieved?
André Moura: The last couple years have been the most successful years for BladeInsight since the founding of the company, I would say. At the end of 2020 we rebranded our company from its original designation ProDrone to BladeInsight, embracing not only a new name, but most importantly a new brand that fully encapsulated our commitment to being a blade centric company providing the wind industry with the solutions it needs to become as efficient as possible. A few months later, in 2021, we secured a strategic investment by global services provider in the offshore energy industry, Swire Energy Services, which has allowed for an exponential growth: with the doubling of our team in size, accelerated development of new innovative solutions, expansion of our operational footprint into new geographies, and also new solutions with the launching of our software as a service product in 2022. The solutions we offer globally today have inspected over 18 GW of wind energy across 4 continents.
In 2021 Swire Energy Services (SES) became a majority shareholder of the company: what does this imply? How will it affect the evolution of the business?
André Moura: The investment by Swire Energy Services was a major milestone for BladeInsight, enabling us to reinforce the global reach of our technology and keep innovating in our products in order to deliver maximum value to the industry. It has enabled BladeInsight’s next level of growth, allowing for significant growth for the company, with a consolidated value proposition to optimize wind energy O&M through automation and digitalization, now onshore and offshore with a truly global outlook. SES is a company with over 40 years of experience in the offshore energy industry, currently present in 28 countries – having built an understanding of the sector and knowledge of offshore operations that, as a startup, is something that we valued in an investor. This partnership enabled BladeInsight to leverage its international expansion, reinforcing our ability to deliver value not only to our customers, but also to the wind sector globally – all in line with our ambition to contribute to the competitiveness of wind energy through technological innovation.
How do you shape your competitive advantages in a market saturated with competition?
André Moura: The specific scope, depth, and functionality of the BladeInsight solutions are unique in the market. Unlike other tech companies in the industry, BladeInsight is a blade centric company built specifically for the wind sector in a way that captures the entire value chain and lifecycle of the wind turbine blade. By providing not only high-quality data collection tools, but also a tailored data analytics and asset management platform with Machine Learning algorithms to maximize efficiency, the way we deliver visibility over the state of wind turbine blades is particularly relevant to wind farm owners. We are unique in our capacity to seamlessly integrate several data sources onto our platform, efficiently enabling the tracking of damages with inspections from any source – from the more traditional, like rope inspections, to the most modern, such as autonomous data collection tools -, delivering a comprehensive understanding on state of blades externally and internally.
What are your strategies for expanding your client portfolio?
André Moura: The holistic approach of BladeInsight solutions and the way we deliver value across the whole blade lifecycle allows us to answer the needs of several client profiles within the industry. Our client portfolio includes wind farm owners and operators who benefit from better blade data management, predictive diagnosis, and optimized maintenance, but also blade and turbine manufacturers and independent service providers who provide blade inspection and maintenance services and deploy our solution globally.
Could you share your targets for 2022?
André Moura: While continuously optimizing our current solutions by accompanying technology developments and the way the wind industry is constantly evolving, we are also focused on the development of other solutions that will bring benefits to the wind blade value chain. Solutions currently under development, and that will be reaching the onshore and offshore market in 2022, include an internal rover system fully integrated with our ML-powered software for internal blade inspections in a safer, more efficient, and effective operation, a maintenance management software integrated with a mobile application for aggregate visibility from the field to the boardroom, and new analytics solutions, including production loss estimation tools for predictive maintenance and increased visibility on what and when to repair. For 2022, I would also highlight the consolidated presence of BladeInsight in the USA, expansion to new geographies and reaching the offshore market with our new solutions.
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