Industry launches unmanned probe
Project to develop timeline for autonomous vessels in offshore wind sector
A new £900,000 joint industry initiative has been set up to explore the use of autonomous surface vessels in the offshore wind sector.
The 18-month Windfarm Autonomous Ship Project (WASP) is part-funded by Innovate UK and led by unnmanned marine systems company ASV Global, in partnership with the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult, SeaRoc Group, Houlder and University of Portsmouth.
The initiative will examine the "technical, regulatory and societal issues" of using autonomous surface vessels, integrated with existing manned shipping operations, to support offshore wind farm operations and maintenance.
ORE Catapult said the "ultimate goal" is to develop a timeline for the phased introduction of autonomous vessels.
The project team will work with industry sponsor Orsted, which will provide "use cases" from its 1.2GW Hornsea 1 offshore wind farm, located 120km off the Yorkshire coast.
Manned operations will be used as the baseline to compare time, cost and performance of unmanned ships in different roles, including asset surveillance, security patrols, component spares supply and crew transfer operations.
ASV Global senior director for business development Dan Hook said: “The WASP project provides the perfect opportunity to show how far autonomous vessels have progressed.
"A sector roadmap for the integration of autonomous vessels into offshore wind farm operations and maintenance will enable the supply chain to prioritise and address the opportunities and challenges.”
ORE Catapult strategy manager Simon Cheeseman added: “Our industry is always looking for ways to reduce the need to send people offshore in a hazardous environment, at the same time as driving down costs while continually improving performance.
"WASP will assess the issues involved in integrating unmanned vessels operations and start to build the evidence to validate our initial findings.”