U.S.-based seabed survey company Ocean Infinity, is, together with the University of Portsmouth, Airborne Robotics, and Bentley Telecom, working to develop an autonomous offshore wind farm inspection capability utilizing aerial drone swarms deployed from an uncrewed marine robotic vessel.
Using 5G and satellite connectivity, the project will see a swarm of drones autonomously inspect wind turbines subsequently removing the need for manual, human inspection, Ocean Infinity, a company that is currently building a fleet of unmanned surface robots - the Armada - said.
As part of the project, a 36 meter Armada uncrewed robotic vessel will act as the host vessel for the aerial drones, facilitating launch and recovery, recharge, data download and transmission to shore via satellite.
Ramsay Lind, Business Development Manager at Ocean Infinity said “Not only will this uncrewed solution see a reduced risk to human life but it will also reduce the environmental impact of windfarm inspection. The Armada vessels are a low-emission alternative to traditional vessels, emitting up to 90% fewer greenhouse gasses."
Dr Sarinova Simandjuntak, from the University of Portsmouth’s School of Mechanical and Design Engineering, said: “Ultimately, we are aiming to develop a system that can detect and monitor defects or damages inside the turbine and the entire structure of a wind turbine in a safe and effective way. This will benefit offshore wind farms, reducing the time they have to shut down for maintenance and therefore increasing availability and supply.”
The project, Drone Swarm for Unmanned Inspection of Wind Turbines (Dr-SUIT) is funded by the Future Flight Challenge programme from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.
The £1.67 million project will culminate in a system demonstration in 2022.