UK team developing drone fleet for offshore wind farm inspection

Ocean Infinity, in partnership with the University of Portsmouth, Airborne Robotics and Bentley Telecom, is developing an autonomous fleet of drones for offshore wind farm inspection.

The aim of the Drone Swarm for Unmanned Inspection of Wind Turbines (Dr-SUIT) project is to develop an autonomous offshore wind farm inspection fleet consisting of unmanned drone swarms and a marine robotic vessel by 2022.

The drones will be connected using 5G technology hosted on one of Ocean Infinity’s Armada uncrewed marine vessels, which will also host battery recharging docking stations.

Data will be collected on the platform and then relayed via satellite, before being processed and stored on the supercomputer at the University of Portsmouth.

The project will examine hovering and flying time, wind conditions, collision avoidance and the power consumption of on-board equipment in order to determine the most efficient and cost-effective drone swarm configuration for inspecting an entire wind farm.

According to project partners, using a swarm of drones could potentially cut inspection time from five weeks to one week and could cut costs by 50%.

“Not only will this uncrewed solution see a reduced risk to human life but it will also reduce the environmental impact of wind farm inspection. The Armada vessels are a low-emission alternative to traditional vessels, emitting up to 90% fewer greenhouse gasses,” said Ramsay Lind, Business Development Manager at Ocean Infinity,

The first live demonstration is expected to take place this summer at a wind farm off the coast of Essex.  

The GBP 1.6 million project is funded by the Future Flight Challenge programme from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.