Energy giant EDF has used a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to assess foundations at the 41.5MW Blyth Offshore Demonstrator Blyth Offshore Demonstrator (41.5MW) Offshoreoff Blyth, Northumberland, UK, Europe Click to see full details off the north-east coast of England, in a bid to make inspections safer.
It believes this is the first time offshore wind turbine foundations have been inspected autonomously.
The drone was operated by researchers at the Orca Hub, part of the National Robotarium, a research facility for robotics and artificial intelligence led by Scottish universities Heriot-Watt and Edinburgh.
It was used to inspect the gravity-based foundations of three of Vestas’s V164-8.0MW turbines over four days.
The trials demonstrated the drone’s ability to work autonomously at the site, as it recorded videos to assess the exterior condition of turbine foundations and cables, EDF explained.
The drone was also used to create a 3D reconstruction model of parts of the substructures, which will be used to monitor biofouling, the accumulation of microorganisms, plants and algae on the turbine foundations.
EDF and Orca Hub are working together to investigate potential applications for drone technology to assess offshore wind turbines.
Sen Wang, lead of robotics and autonomous systems at the Edinburgh-based National Robotarium said using underwater robots to carry out inspection and maintenance services for offshore wind turbines reduced the need to put people into challenging and dangerous environments.
Maxime Duchet, an offshore wind research engineer at EDF’s UK research and development centre, added: “Further tests are needed to estimate the time required to inspect all of the turbine foundations, and to demonstrate the full potential of marine robotic technology.
“However it is clear from these initial results that the technology can ensure safer and faster operations and a reduced carbon footprint.”
EDF is now considering what part autonomous drones can play in future projects.