AI Tech Tracking Seabirds at Aberdeen Bay Offshore Wind Farm

Vattenfall, Norwegian AI technology start-up Spoor, and British Trust for Ornithology have teamed up on a project that will test AI technology in tracking 3D flight paths of seabirds flying near the wind turbine blades at the Aberdeen Bay Offshore Wind Farm in Scotland.

Kittiwake in flight at Aberdeen Bay Offshore Wind Farm; Photo: Vattenfall

The project has already started, with four cameras already installed and collecting data on birds’ 3D flight paths throughout the wind farm and in the immediate vicinity of the turbine blades. Data on seabird movements has already started coming in and validation trials have been completed both offshore, with an observer present, and onshore, with a drone, according to Vattenfall.

The aim of the project is to test Spoor’s AI technology to document how seabirds interact with offshore wind turbines and to acquire insights on bird flight patterns and behaviour, as well as to potentially detect collisions. 

The Norwegian start-up last year saw investments from Ørsted and venture capital firms Nysnø Climate Investments (Nysnø), Wiski Capital, Norrsken Foundation, and Antler via a seed funding round that was aimed at helping to test and commercialise the new technology.

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According to information shared last year, Spoor’s AI technology has been developed to accurately identify and track birds specifically. On top of this, the AI system is also said to have no blind spots and is deemed to be more cost-effective than the alternatives.

The trial at Vattenfall’s Aberdeen Bay Offshore Wind Farm, also known as the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC), is expected to be completed in June 2024, when also the findings will be announced.

British Trust for Ornithology has been commissioned to provide independent scientific validation of the trial.

A stakeholder advisory panel is providing advice and input during the course of the project, including experts from the RSPB, Marine Scotland Science, NatureScot, and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee.

“Collecting high quality data as part of projects like this is key to ensuring that we can build developments like offshore wind farms, which are a key part of efforts to minimise the impact of climate change, in a way that does not exacerbate the challenges faced by our internationally important seabird populations”, said Aonghais Cook, Principal Ecologist for Renewable Energy at British Trust for Ornithology.

“This is particularly important given many species are undergoing significant declines in response to both climate change, and other pressures like Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI)”.

The new project follows on from Vattenfall’s previous research project that was using a combination of radar and camera technology, documenting seabird flight behaviour at a larger scale around the turbines.

The developer reported the findings of the previous project, also performed at the EOWDC offshore wind farm, at the beginning of this year.

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The two-year study yielded more than 10,000 videos of birds at the 11-turbine offshore wind farm, with no collisions or near-misses with the wind turbines recorded.

Vattenfall installed the previous project’s radar-camera technology in 2019 and tracked the seabirds during the April-October, when bird densities were highest in the Aberdeen area, in 2020 and 2021.


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