UK-based specialist Modus Seabed Intervention, along with offshore engineering firm Osbit, is trialling an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) capable of recharging at a docking station. It will also be capable of uploading data and receiving commands from the surface, Modus stated.
The company has received funding from the UK government’s 'Innovate UK' scheme, which supports new science and technology, to enable further development, testing and demonstration of the existing UAV and its docking station.
Initial testing will take place in saltwater docks at ORE Catapult’s National Renewable Energy Centre in the Blyth on England’s northeast coast.
It will also be trialled at Innogy’s 576MW Gwynt y Môr site in the Irish Sea, while EDF Energy and E.on have also expressed interest in supporting the project, according to Modus.
"Seabed surveys and infrastructure inspections are currently carried out by crewed survey vessels using hull-mounted equipment, diving and ROV (remotely operated underwater) support vessels," explained Andrew Kay, operations and maintenance strategy manager for ORE Catapult.
"The system being developed with Modus and Osbit will be fully self-sufficient, reducing operational and maintenance costs, as well as the levels of personnel required," Kay added.
Modus has been developing AUV/ROV hybrid systems for underwater and seabed surveys since 2012.
The company believes its autonomous vehicle project could help developers of offshore wind farms in Europe save £1.1 billion (€1.25 billion) in operating costs over the next 25 years. The scheme could also reduce the need for staff to work in often-hazardous environments, the company added.
Jake Tompkins, Modus’ managing director, said: "Part of our vision is to see AUVs becoming field resident, offering significant cost savings and quality benefits to the markets and our customers."