Belgian TSO takes up autonomous surface vehicle inspection (Video)

Belgian transmission system operator (TSO) Elia has for the first time used an autonomous, unmanned surface vehicle (USV) to survey its offshore assets.

The USV named Tupan, owned and developed by Brazilian start-up Tidewise, inspected Elia’s subsea cables to the Modular Offshore Grid (MOG) in the Belgian North Sea earlier this month.

The five-meter vehicle, together with a lidar and drone, was used to carry out the annual inspection of the full cable route in order to ensure there are no problems with the burial and cable protection.

Belgian geo-data specialist GEOxyz provided the project with logistical support.

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“Unmanned vehicles, robots, sensors and drones are increasingly being used by our teams as they carry out asset maintenance activities. They allow staff to increase the frequency of inspections whilst reducing risks, our environmental footprint and human reliance on good weather for accessing our assets,” Elia said.

The Modular Offshore Grid bundles together the export cables from the Rentel, Northwester 2 and Seamade (which comprises the 252 MW Seastar and the 235 MW Mermaid projects) wind farms and transports the generated energy to the mainland via a shared transmission system.

The switching platform is located 40 kilometers from the coast and is directly connected to the Stevin high-voltage substation in Zeebrugge.

It began operating in September 2019, when it was connected to the Rentel wind farm, and was completed in early summer of 2020 when it was connected to Seastar.

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