Damen Shipyards Group, Delft Dynamics and Next Ocean are involved in trials to test new helicopter drone and fast rescue boat operations technologies offshore
The project uses a combination of helicopter drones, fast rescue boats and wave prediction technology to enable speedy deployment and return during search and rescue operations.
Delft Dynamics is providing its RH-3 Swift unmanned helicopter drone that can be in the air for up to four hours, and Damen contributed a fast rescue craft to the project.
Due to the rough seas and weather common to the North Sea region, Damen incorporated technology provider Next Ocean’s wave and vessel motion predictor into the project, after testing the technology on one of its Stan Patrol vessels.
Collaboration between the three companies involved qualification testing of Delft Dynamics RH3 drone, along with a fast rescue boat launched from a Damen Sea Axe Fast Crew Supply (FCS) Vessell equipped with Next Ocean’s wave and vessel motion predictor. The wave prediction system uses the ship’s radar to map the sea approximately one nautical mile around the vessel, enabling accurate prediction of wave activity in three-minute windows.
“With this we can predict when there will be a window of opportunity to launch the drone and the rescue craft. Take-off and landing of the drone takes just 30 seconds,” explained Damen High Speed Craft research and development manager Albert Rijkens. “The wave prediction system makes this approach feasible and safe.”
“Performing this test was a tremendous success and demonstrated clearly the feasibility of taking off and landing the drone in rough seas,” Delft Dynamics COO Boris Langendoen said.
The test also provided additional data for the further development of the Next Ocean wave prediction system Next Ocean co-founder Karel Roozen said.
“The system is in a state of constant evolution. The more data we collect, the more we can improve on its capabilities. The current version is developed for operations on board dynamically positioned or slowly moving vessels (up to aproximately 8 knots). Apart from demonstrating the system at low speed, we gathered information during this trial which will help prepare the system to operate at speeds up to 25 knots or even higher, paving the way for a whole new set of additional applications,” Mr Roozen said.
Mr Rijkens said that the project’s cooperative approach is the key to its innovation. The test was funded by the Dutch Ministry of Defence and support by the Royal Netherlands Navy and the Netherlands Coastguard.