New Autonomous Vehicle for Offshore Wind Surveys
A new autonomous sailing platform aims make the collection of offshore wind energy data easier, faster, cleaner and more cost efficient.
The 16-foot wind- and solar-powered Datamaran, launched recently by Norwegian energy company Equinor and US technology firm Autonomous Marine Systems Inc. (AMS), carries a LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging, a well-established technology used to record wind characteristics hundreds of feet above the surface) to gather data on wind and weather conditions at offshore lease areas for the development of wind energy projects.
Typically, this data has been collected by a combination of a vessel traversing the offshore wind area and a LiDAR system mounted to an anchored, stationary buoy.
Using the rapidly-deployable Datamaran, offshore wind farm developers can collect this data completely autonomously without a manned support vessel. The vehicle is able to continuously transmit acquired data and vessel health status to onshore operations via fault-tolerant communication channels. The vessel is propelled by a rigid wing sail while the LiDAR, navigation, and communication systems are powered by deck and sail mounted solar panels and large batteries.
In addition, standard integration interfaces enable broad flexibility in sensor payload and survey types such as standard meteorological ocean, bathymetric and hydrographic, current and wave characteristics, avian and marine mammal detection, and alerting.
Over the last 18 months, Equinor and AMS have conducted studies and built prototypes to test the system. These have shown dramatic improvements in lead time, cost and areal coverage versus today’s options, and the Datamaran is now ready for commercial deployment.
“In keeping with our partnership with Equinor, we’ve named this latest class of vessels ‘Njord.’” said Ravijit Paintal, CEO of AMS. “We launched it successfully last week, and now we’re looking forward to deploying the technology worldwide to deliver order-of-magnitude benefits to offshore wind development.”
Christer Af Geijerstam, President of Equinor Wind US, said, “Equinor’s collaboration with Massachusetts startup AMS underscores our commitment to collaborate with, invest in and support local business. The emergence of the US offshore wind energy industry presents an exciting opportunity for local, nimble, innovative companies to partner with established wind-farm developers.”