Future offshore wind power plants could see survey and inspection costs at sea slashed by some 60% through the use of next-generation robotic survey vessels, according to calculations informing a newly engineered design in the UK.

Start-up HydroSurv, working with the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult and partners Reygar and Core Blue, has launched a pair of so-called autonomous surface vessels (USVs) that use a range of sensors and “task-orientated” payloads to carry out unmanned operations, increasingly important as the sector moves further from shore and into deep waters.

“Supporting offshore survey and inspection with fully-autonomous survey vessels could become commonplace,” said David Hull, HydroSurv’s founder, “and as the offshore wind sector extends its reach further offshore, survey industries will have to adapt to satisfy industries’ future needs – including decarbonising survey, improving safety and delivering accurate, reliable and repeatable data at a reduced cost.”

He added: “Our mission is to democratise ocean data with a focus across four key sectors which can gain the most from maritime autonomous systems.”

The control system for the USV designs were developed with data “drawn from over a decade’s experience developing cutting edge low-emission, safe, and cost-effective offshore wind vessel monitoring and control system technologies”, said Reygar MD Chris Huxley-Reynard.

Chris Hill, ORE Catapult’s operational performance director, stated: “Robotic and autonomous systems technologies will play a crucial role in the UK’s transition to net zero and represent a huge opportunity to leverage its world-leading role in offshore wind, using its advanced robotics and autonomous systems sector to develop solutions for a global market.”

“The development of these technologies in the industry also creates more opportunities to remove technicians from dangerous offshore working conditions, with a move to remote operations onshore.”

The storming progress of Britain’s offshore wind industry in recent years has led to a flourishing of innovation in the fourth industrial revolution space, with AI-powered drones and underwater robots set to take up prominent places in the planet’s seascapes surveying for and servicing wind plants at sea.

Watch HydroSurv at work https://youtu.be/fzy7e2fRgT0