ESVAGT, Siemens Gamesa and Ørsted are looking into using drones for spare parts and tools transfer from service operation vessels (SOVs) to offshore wind turbines.
The three companies will examine the potential in meeting offshore wind turbine technicians’ needs in an easier way within a project called Operative package deliveries by drones. The project, scheduled to run until June 2020, is sponsored by the European Regional Development Fund.
“When we transfer a WTG technician from vessel to WTG, he brings both spare parts and tools with him. But it often happens that the technician needs additional equipment, tools or spare parts while inside the WTG,” said Flemming Hjorth, Head of New Services Business Development at ESVAGT.
“Today, such a scenario requires the vessel to return to the WTG or that we send a transfer boat over to the WTG with the necessary gear, which the technician then has to get down and get. This process can be optimised.”
The three offshore wind players will cooperate with several subcontractors regarding a solution in the innovation project, where drones can deliver packages weighing up to 3-4 kg directly to the wind turbine nacelle.
“Most often, it is the small spare parts that make a difference: smaller electrical components or a specific tool. Delivering these with a drone could potentially spare us a tremendous amount of time and contribute to making the operation of the offshore wind farm even more efficient,” Hjorth said.
Since an offshore wind farm involves moving wind turbine parts, along with the SOVs constantly working in new areas of an offshore wind farm, the aim is to transport spare parts between two variable points, following a route that will be adjusted along the way.
“It is complex, even when using drone pilots, and it becomes even more demanding once you add the changing weight of the cargo, the wind’s impact, the use of magnetic compass in an offshore farm with lots of steel, and so on. But the potential in finding a solution is extremely interesting,” Flemming Hjorth said.
For ESVAGT, this is not the first time to be looking at how drones could make offshore operations easier. At the end of 2018, the company formed the EWPL Ocean joint venture with Wind Power Lab, an Artificial Intelligence and blade specialist.
The EWPL Ocean joint venture’s focus is the inspection of the wind turbine blades using drones that are operated and piloted from ESVAGT’s vessels.