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Scottish university team wins funding to develop robotics for offshore wind farms

Published 08 February 2017

A team at Heriot-Watt University in Scotland has secured £4m funding to deliver a human-robotics hybrid solution to maintain and operate offshore wind farms.

The solution is being developed by colleagues from Heriot-Watt's Ocean Systems Laboratory and the Smart Systems Group.

The research grant includes a £1m industry contribution and £3m from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). 

The team includes David Flynn, Keith Brown and Professor David Lane, is part of a consortium of experts that aim to create remote inspection and repair technologies using robotics and autonomous systems. 

The systems will be deployed to inspect the conditions of subsea power cables, identify problems early, helping in extending their lifespan.

Heriot-Watt University Smart Systems Group director David Flynn stated the UK government has set ambitious decarbonisation targets and plans to increase the currently generated 5GW through offshore wind farms to about 40GW by 2050.

Until now offshore wind companies have been focusing on turbines and their deployment, allocating majority of their resources towards them, but have been ignoring operations and maintenance including subsea cabling system.

Flynn said: “Currently 70% of cable failure modes cannot be monitored in-situ, inhibiting accurate health monitoring.

“This exciting and highly interdisciplinary project builds on our globally recognised expertise in embedded intelligence and robotics and autonomous systems.”

Flynn continued: "We aim to provide the UK with a competitive advantage within the highly lucrative offshore energy market.

"Our hybrid, human-robotics, technology will seek to protect those most vulnerable to increases in the cost of energy by reducing the costs faced by both tax and bill payers.

“The UK is leading the world in the development of remote inspection technologies, which also have significant applications in the global oil and gas decommissioning market.

“As the UK works towards ambitious decarbonisation targets, we expect this industry to be worth more than £2 billion per year by 2020.”


Image: Heriot-Watt University wins £4m grant to develop robotics for offshore wind industry. Photo: Courtesy of Heriot-Watt University.