Fugro has completed what is said to be the world’s first fully remote ROV inspection of an offshore wind farm using its Blue Essence uncrewed surface vessel (USV).
The operations were carried out at the Aberdeen offshore wind farm in the North Sea, also known as the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC) using one of Fugro’s Blue Essence USVs with the Blue Volta electrical remotely operated vehicle (eROV).
The eROV, which was remotely launched and recovered from Fugro’s remote operations center (ROC) in Aberdeen, delivered a number of inspections on the structure of the wind turbines to assess their stability and safety.
According to the Dutch company, a detailed map of the seabed was also created using data gathered from a deepwater multibeam echosounder sensor mounted on the hull of the vessel.
The inspection was jointly funded by Vattenfall and Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult.
“This is a landmark moment for offshore operations and demonstrates how remote technologies are bringing significant benefits to the offshore wind industry,” said Nick Simmons, Fugro’s USV and Remote Working Director for Europe and Africa.
“Our USVs can be operated from our global network of ROCs, allowing us to deliver faster and more sustainable inspection and geophysical services from onshore locations, which are also much safer for crew than the offshore environment.”
Blue Essence is the first USV to receive approval from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) to operate fully remotely with an eROV and undertake surveys in UK waters.
The vessel is capable of spending up to two weeks executing inspection activities at sea without refueling, resulting in a 95 per cent reduction in carbon emissions compared to conventional ROV support vessels.
“This is a technology that could signify a real step forward for the industry, particularly from a safety perspective – reducing the need to deploy teams offshore, with survey work instead able to be managed from onshore,” said Håkan Borgström, Deputy Director, O&M Product Line, Offshore Wind at Vattenfall.
“As projects become increasingly far out to sea, this will also mean significantly lower carbon emissions which is a vital part of Vattenfall’s mission to deliver fossil-free living within a generation.”