DEME Offshore and Sabca have successfully undertaken a series of tests with autonomous aerial vehicles (drones) on the Rentel offshore windfarm in the North Sea
The companies said the tests enabled them to prepare for the introduction of autonomous surveillance, rescue and detection missions “that would replace critical and ad hoc operations with autonomous aerial vehicles.”
The pilot study was the first commercial, cross-border, beyond visual line of sight drone operation in an offshore windfarm in the North Sea.
Drones were tested in a number of potential missions, including search and rescue operations, environmental surveys, turbine and substation inspection and the delivery of small amounts of cargo. A conventional drone and a fixed-wing surveillance drone were deployed together.
The long endurance surveillance drone took off from the Belgian coast and flew to the Rentel windfarm, which is more than 35 km off the coast. An automated ‘resident drone’ undertook inspections and cargo flights from the substation in the windfarm and from vessels. This drone also conducted a full search and rescue demonstration using infrared detection and was also used to drop a lifebuoy.
“By combining drone operations with the use of artificial intelligence for automatic image processing, a strong set of tools has been developed to automate operations which are currently being executed by people,” DEME said.
DEME Offshore general manager Bart De Poorter said, “We believe that this innovative technology, which does not need any vessels or people offshore, has a game-changing potential to increase safety, reduce the impact on the environment in the O&M phase of a project and reduce the overall costs. Ultimately, we expect unmanned vehicles to help to reduce the levelised cost of energy from offshore wind.”
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