Leading offshore wind developer Ørsted announced it has developed an uncrewed surface vessel (USV) for offshore met-ocean measurement campaigns.
The USV was invented by Ørsted employees and has been designed as a generic platform for a range of sensor instrumentation and is able to collect large amounts of data on, among other things, wind conditions, state of the seabed and biological and ecological measurements—all essential for Ørsted’s early-phase development activities prior to the construction of new wind farms.
The USV is engineered for continuous operation in harsh offshore conditions for up to a year at a time. It features a built-in navigation system, which enables it to transit from shore at various degrees of autonomy, and it can be controlled both in line-of-sight or from a beyond-line-of-sight remote control center.
"What's so special about our USV concept is that it can bring our measurement equipment to and from our offshore sites without the need for large, specialised support vessels, and, while on site, it can operate autonomously for extended periods of time, measuring large amounts of data that can be sent onshore and processed in real time," said Frederik Søndergaard Hansen, Program Manager and co-inventor of the USV concept. "The USV concept enables Ørsted to obtain a consistently high data availability, which is essential for achieving the highest possible certainty regarding the annual energy production for new offshore wind farms.
"Ørsted’s USV concept has several advantages over conventional solutions that rely on specialized support vessels to bring measurement equipment to offshore sites. The Ørsted USV improves safety by removing the risk for offshore technicians, reduces the overall carbon emissions significantly, and increases the operational window as it can operate safely in high sea state conditions."
According to Ørsted, another benefit of the USV concept is lowered costs of conducting offshore measurement campaigns, while providing increased flexibility through internal ownership and operation of the USVs.
Ørsted, who has patented the USV concept, said it sees enormous potential in the technology and has initiated a serial production based on its successful prototype named Hugin USV. The prototype has been operating in Danish and Norwegian waters and has reportedly experienced waves up to nine meters in the North Sea. Hugin USV also achieved type validation as a floating LiDAR system by Norwegian classification society DNV, allowing it to be used for commercial operations related to wind farm development.
As was the case for the prototype, the new USVs will be constructed by Danish shipbuilder Tuco Marine Group, and the USV control system is delivered by the innovative Norwegian company Maritime Robotics AS. Serial production of a new class will incorporate learnings from the prototype and broaden the operational capabilities to include deepwater operations for future floating wind farms. The expectation is to produce five new USVs by the end of 2023.
Jacob Edmonds, Head of Innovation at Ørsted, said, "The autonomous vessel is a very good example of Ørsted’s innovation methodology. First, we study the megatrends addressing our industry – in this case, the challenge of obtaining quality wind measurements and environmental data in the fastest time possible. Then, we apply our three-step demonstrator, stepstone, and commercial scale product-to-market recipe. Meaning, we start small and proof the concept, then through strong partnership collaboration, financial backing, and against the tide of macroeconomic trends, we persevere through our extensive inhouse project management experience and systematic problem-solving mindset."