Following successful trials of a DriX autonomous surface vehicle on the Gwynt y Môr offshore windfarm, Bibby HydroMap recently conducted a demonstration of the unit at the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult facility in Blyth.
The key purpose of the demonstration was to showcase DriX autonomous surface vehicle (ASV) in the offshore renewables sector to capture information at all stages of a project. Bibby HydroMap believes an autonomous unmanned vessel could reduce the cost of conducting surveys on offshore windfarms. DriX is an 8-m autonomous unmanned unit developed by iXblue.
During the demonstration, two Blyth offshore wind turbines were surveyed, owned by Eon Renewables. The aim of the survey was to complete a 100-m box around each of the two turbines, although unfavourable weather conditions and the shallow nature of the turbines hampered data collection around the structures.
The trial was the first occasion where DriX operations have been conducted from a shore-based location, highlighting the flexible and easy deployment of DriX. In addition, it was the first time a Kongsberg marine broadband radio (MBR) system was used as the communications link for DriX. Utilising the MBR increased the operating range to approximately 20 km.
In order to meet existing legislation, a support vessel, Taurus, was utilised to provide constant line of sight communication to DriX. The DriX pilot was on board the support vessel.
During operations QPS’s QINSy survey planning, acquisition, and real-time hydrographic data processing was running on board the ASV, but operations were controlled by technical staff from the shore base enabling the full quality control multibeam echosounder data to be downloaded straight from DriX.
All data was downloaded using the MBR link once the mission was completed, with very little need for further processing, shortening processing timescales and speeding up delivery of critical information.
The demonstration built on the positive outcomes from the Gwynt y Môr trials and using the MBR communication link lifted the restricted operational limits on previous DriX missions. The unfavourable weather conditions on the day further highlighted the ability of DriX to operate in challenging conditions and its ability to compete with traditional survey vessels.