EnBW, German Aerospace Center Exploring Use of Passenger Drones in Offshore Wind

EnBW and German Aerospace Center (DLR) have launched a research project on the use of logistics and passenger drones to service offshore wind farms.

In light of the many developments in urban air mobility aimed at expanding airborne transport systems, coupled with investments by logistics companies in drone technologies, it makes a lot of sense to look more closely at offshore wind farms as a potential application, according to EnBW.

“As flight paths are almost exclusively over uninhabited areas, we anticipate fewer restrictions than for Urban Air Mobility”, said Dr. Michael Splett, Head of Offshore Operations at EnBW.

As part of the three-year project, funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection, EnBW and DLR will also look into upgrading offshore wind farms for the use of transport drones to complement helicopter and ship deployments.

“Among the issues to be clarified are how offshore wind farms need to be equipped to enable the use of drones, what a drone landing platform could look like, how a transport container needs to be designed and what communication interfaces could look like”, said Jonas Janke, responsible project manager and offshore specialist at EnBW.

The research project also aims to explore the legal framework for operating transport drones at offshore wind farms and identify any as yet uncovered legal aspects for this application or conflicts with existing regulations. The goal is to identify the conditions and necessary steps for implementing cargo and passenger drone transport operations.

Scientists from German Aerospace Center, which sets out the framework conditions for drone operation in the wind farm environment, are conducting experiments with a DLR drone in a wind farm on land. In parallel, operation in the offshore area is being developed as a model and closely examined in simulations.

According to EnBW, extensive practical testing is already being prepared though an Offshore Drone Challenge (ODC), with EnBW and DLR, together with other partners, already working on the competition design.

The German offshore wind developer said that using cargo drones to transport tools and materials directly to the top of a 100-metre wind turbine would eliminate the need for cranes. If service technicians were to travel by passenger drones, there would be no need for transfers to the turbines and two-week shifts with overnight stays at sea, EnBW said.

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Photo: EnBW