Wind farm robot inspection project to see £4m investment

Flying robot (UAV) surveying a cliff
Flying robot (UAV) surveying a cliff

A new project to set up develop the “world’s first” robotic wind farm inspection and repair tool is to get £4 million investment.

The two-year project hopes to prove that certain offshore operations and maintenance can be carried out by autonomous vessels, drones and “crawling robots”.

If successful, it is claimed the technology could save the average wind farm up to £26m.

The Innovate Uk-funded project will involve eight industry and academic partners, including Plant Integrity and the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult.

Chris Hill, ORE Catapult’s operational performance director, said: “This project aligns closely with the UK Government’s latest Offshore Wind Sector Deal and wider Industrial Strategy and will position the UK as a world leader in robotics and autonomous systems development, as well as highlighting a route to market for innovators in robotics, data and digitalisation services.

“Reducing the use of crew transfer vessels is an imperative for the offshore wind industry, as it will positively impact health and safety, help push down cost and combine the UK’s competitive advantage in operating offshore renewable energy plant with its world-leading robotics sector.”

The industry hopes to have a number of new and cost-saving technologies, including robots able to map and scan wind turbines and autonomous vessels able to initiate and plan missions.

Sara Bernardini, Royal Holloway University of London, added: “We will be working closely with a group of offshore wind technicians to create personas for the robots and map the tasks that will turn a human-led mission into an autonomous operation.

“Testing and consultation with technicians will be crucial to designing the interface for remote monitoring and intervention and understanding how to deal with the unexpected in a mission.”