Offshore Wind Industry Gets Underwater Drone

A Norwegian technology company, Blueye Robotics, has developed an underwater drone that allows offshore wind companies to perform inspection of underwater structures and power cables without the need for divers or remotely operated vehicles.

Today, visual inspections conducted below the sea surface and at the seabed are normally carried out by divers or ROVs. While utilising divers is inefficient and represents significant HSE risks, ROVs have traditionally been very costly and required extensive training – and in most cases an external operator – to manage, the technology developer explained.

“We are providing owners and operators of offshore wind farms with an industrial drone that can be operated by everyone capable of using a smartphone or a tablet PC. Perhaps just as important is that it is priced reasonably at approximately USD 4-5,000 per drone system. This will allow for several drones at each offshore wind farm to make inspections even quicker, which in turn means higher operational reliability and uptime for each windmill,” said Erik Dyrkoren, CEO of Blueye Robotics.

The Blueye Pioneer underwater drone is equipped with powerful thrusters that allows it to operate in heavy currents and dive to water depths of 150m. Live video is transmitted via a thin umbilical cable to the surface and thereafter wirelessly to the user. The drone is compact (45cm x 25cm x 35cm) and weighs only 7kg, Blueye Robotics said.

“In principle, array cables and export cables represent the cash flow from offshore wind farms. To be able to conduct more regular visual inspections of these cables and the surrounding seabed can give operators the opportunity to address potential issues before they become a problem. Combined with lower than usual capex and an opex close to zero, we believe this underwater drone can make visual inspections more frequent and less cumbersome for operators of offshore wind farms,” said Erik Dyrkoren.

The Trondheim-based Blueye Robotics has sprung out from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s centre for autonomous marine operations and systems (NTNU AMOS).

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