If a technician in an offshore wind turbine lacks a tool or other equipment during service work, it will today be sailed to the mill with a smaller service ship. This process is both expensive, time-consuming, and environmentally intensive, which is why the partners in the new innovation project FOD4Wind will look at whether the ships can be replaced by drones provided by the start-up company Upteko.
“Today, equipment is sailed to the individual turbine with a so-called service operation vessel. What we want in the project FOD4Wind is to replace that sailing with drone flights from larger ships from Esvagt, saving the trips around the wind farm. The drone must be able to fly fully automated from one of Esvagt’s ships and up to the offshore wind turbine’s nacelle, where there is a landing pad. Here, the drone can then set aside the tool it flies with,” says Benjamin Meinertz, partner at Upteko.
The plan is that in the long term the drone will be able to carry goods of up to 100 kg. In the project FOD4Wind, however, the partners work with loads of 12 kg for a start. According to Siemens Gamesa, which produces and services offshore wind turbines, there is great potential in using drones at sea.
“We started looking at the use of drones in 2016, and our business case is positive – both in terms of deliveries and perhaps also inspection of offshore wind turbines. We see great potential in having drones on service ships permanently. We constantly focus on making things smarter, and by using drones to maintain our wind turbines, we can reduce both our costs and our environmental footprint,” says Lars Holm Nielsen, Head of R&D service operations at Siemens Gamesa.
The project is facilitated by Energy Cluster Denmark, and is, according to CEO Glenda Napier, a good example of how collaboration on innovation pays off. “The great thing about Fod4Wind is that the project at once helps define new business areas for the participating partners – while solving a climate challenge. If we start using drones rather than ships offshore, we make a difference to both the black and the green bottom line,” says Glenda Napier.
At ESVAGT, which supplies the SOV-ships from which the drone will fly, safety is also an essential part of the project.” As the leading provider of SOV-ships in Europe, we are very focused on offering new services to our customers. Drones have a vital role to play here and will make the servicing of wind turbines more efficient in the future. Our focus is always safety first and therefore we attach great importance to the conditions surrounding the solutions that the project provides. It must be safe to operate the drone offshore” says Nils Overgaard, Head of Special Projects, ESVAGT. The plan is for the first flights in the project to take place from an Esvagt ship to a Siemens Gamesa turbine in the second quarter of 2022.
The project is supported by the Energy Technology Development and Demonstration Programme (EUDP) and has a total budget of DKK 17 million. It has previously been supported by the EU Regional Fund. It runs until the end of 2024 and has a partner group consisting of Upteko, Siemens Gamesa, ESVAGT and the University of Southern Denmark. Energy Cluster Denmark facilitates and manages the project.