Marshall Futureworx has unveiled a system of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that could revolutionize how we inspect offshore wind farms.
The company, the project construction and advanced technologies arm of Marshall in Cambridge, said its flagship Lilypad ecosystem uses artificial intelligence and navigational sensors, enabling drones to go beyond visible line of sight (BVLOS).
When deployed from sea freight stations, drones can be monitored by a single pilot remotely at an internal command and control center, eliminating the need for engineers to perform manual inspections outside.
Drones can send critical inspection data and reports to wind farm operators, enabling faster, more frequent, reliable and predictable maintenance scheduling.
The announcement comes as Marshall Futureworx has been named a finalist in the Tech for Good category of the 2023 Cambridge Independent Science and Technology Awards.
Keren Patterson, Managing Director of Marshall Futureworks, said: “The ever-increasing demand for safe, renewable energy to power our communities has led to a growing need for innovative solutions to enable the installation and support of offshore wind infrastructure, from initial construction and through the life of projects.
“Leveraging our proven talent for integrating leading technologies and providing support services for customers operating in demanding, regulated environments, we are excited to share the first of these products – Lilypad, an offshore wind farm inspection service that provides truly scalable inspection capability to support significant growth and increase in offshore wind farms.
“Lilypad uses permanently resident autonomous drones allowing us to provide on-demand and scheduled inspections in a timely manner to reduce the economic impact on wind farm operations. Lilypad separates the cost of the inspection from sea condition, distance from shore and seasonal considerations, and eliminates the need for offshore staff during inspections.
The UK has the second largest installed offshore wind capacity in the world, providing around 12 GW of capacity and is a key part of the government’s net zero strategy.
It is targeting 50 GW of installed capacity by 2030 and possibly more than 100 GW by 2050, which means there is a growing demand for safe and scalable technologies to inspect, maintain and ensure the efficiency of wind turbines, while reducing costs for energy users.
Marshall Futureworx says the improved frequency and quality of intelligence that operators will gain through Lilypad’s remote inspections means that the amount of time a wind turbine will be running is expected to increase rapidly and that its life cycle should increase.
The CAA-certified system features state-of-the-art sensor and edge processing systems, and will enable operators to maximize weather windows.
The company signed a memorandum of understanding in 2022 with ISS Aerospace, which offers leading industrial drones, and with see.ai, which offers AI-powered drone guidance and control software.
Ryan Kempley, CEO of ISS Aerospace, said: “ISS Aerospace is pleased to have been appointed by Marshall Futureworx to provide a derivative of the Sensus ML8-XP UAV to the Lilypad ecosystem. The Sensus family of drones has seen great acceptance from defense, security and energy customers and has seen operations around the world.
“ISS provides highly innovative solutions focused on customer requirements that provide on-board multi-modal integration to deliver top-of-the-line intelligence solutions.”
See.ai CEO John McKenna added: “We are thrilled to be able to reveal more about this project. Not only is the deep collaboration with Marshall, one of the UK’s leading airlines an exciting opportunity to develop a defensible world-leading product for a huge and rapidly growing global market, but it also gives us the opportunity to make a significant impact on one of the most pressing challenges of our time: the transition to the net. zero.
“With this stellar consortium, we look forward to pushing the boundaries of what is possible with drone technology.”
The first public display of the Lilypad will be at the World Offshore Wind Show in London on June 14, at stand A66. Visit marshallfutureworx.com/lilypad for more.
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