In May 2022, researchers from the Offshore Robotics for Certification of Assets (ORCA) Hub partnered with EDF to deploy a uniquely customised remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to carry out what is believed to be the first autonomous wind farm foundation inspection of the energy company’s Blyth Offshore Wind Farm.
The ROV, equipped and operated by researchers from the ORCA Hub, a strategic project within the National Robotarium and funded by the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, was modified to include cutting-edge robotic technologies for autonomous inspection capabilities and carried out visual inspections of the gravity-based foundations of three offshore turbines over the course of four days.
The inspections were undertaken as part of a partnership between EDF and the ORCA Hub to investigate a wide range of potential applications for drone technology to assess offshore wind turbines. 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.
The drone was also used to create a 3D reconstruction model of parts of the underwater assets, which will be used to monitor biofouling, the accumulation of microorganisms, plants and algae on the turbine foundations.
Paul Clarke, Portfolio Manager for Offshore Wind at EDF Renewables UK, said: “These trials have showcased the ability of autonomous inspection drones to collect high-quality images of offshore turbine technology. These images, and the modelling they enable, will greatly enhance our ability to carry out operations and maintenance activities on-site.”
James Wilson, Area Manager at EDF Renewables UK said: “Marine robotics is a booming field with a myriad of applications for offshore wind farms, and we’re delighted to have partnered with the ORCA Hub for this successful trial. The drone proved its ability to work autonomously and make a significant contribution to turbine operation and maintenance, and we’re excited at the possibilities afforded by drone technology to further streamline these procedures.”