Robotics & Autonomous Systems

Find out more about our robotics and autonomous systems testing and validation facilities.

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Electrical Infrastructure Research Hub

The Catapult has appointed the University of Strathclyde and the University of Manchester to form the Electrical Infrastructure Research Hub.

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Automation & Engineering Solutions

Find out more about our work in robotics, autonomous systems and artificial intelligence.

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Stay Current

Dig deeper into the biggest issues facing offshore wind, wave and tidal energy with our series of Analysis & Insight papers.

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Innovation Challenges

Solving these technology innovation challenges will help drive down the cost of offshore renewable energy, with positive effects for the industry and UK economy. If your technology has the answer, get in touch via our contact form on the Innovation Challenges page.

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Introduction

ORE Catapult OMCE O&M Centre of Excellence

A £2 million collaboration between ORE Catapult and University of Hull, the UK Operations & Maintenance Centre of Excellence (OMCE) is building on the Humber region’s energy heritage and extensive experience of servicing offshore wind farms. It will be a national centre of excellence with international impact.

Operations and maintenance activities make up almost a quarter of the lifetime costs of an offshore wind project, providing a huge opportunity for UK companies to supply their products and services.

By bringing together offshore wind owners, operators, supply chain, industry leaders, regulators and academia, the O&M Centre of Excellence will work with UK industry to drive solution-focused innovation and improvements in O&M.

Download the O&M Centre of Excellence brochure

 

Objectives

As a catalyst for collaboration, development and rapid improvements in the industry, the O&M Centre of Excellence will deliver major benefits including:

  • Driving continued reduction in the levelised cost of energy (LCoE) from offshore wind farms
  • Creating opportunities for UK businesses to export solutions the fast-growing international market
  • Improving safety within O&M.

The east coast, and particularly the Humber Estuary, has extensive experience of servicing offshore wind farms, establishing the region as a global leader in O&M expertise.

The five-year partnership will see a series of research and innovation projects developed to improve the way that offshore wind farms are operated and maintained.

 

Our Projects

The first round of research and innovation projects being delivered by the O&M Centre of Excellence investigated a broad range of topics ranging from subsea cables to autonomous robots. Download the project summary reports to find out more.

 

Beyond Visual Line of Sight Autonomous Systems

Autonomous and robotic systems are already in use in offshore wind, but their limited levels of autonomy are a barrier to greater cost savings and safety improvements. The OMCE carried out a study investigating the key challenges for Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) systems, which can operate completely autonomously without the need for an operator to be within visual range.

The study looked at unmanned aerial and underwater vehicles and surface vessels, and, after engagement with the offshore wind industry, supply chain and technology innovators, identified four key areas stopping BVLOS from maximising their potential cost reductions. Those barriers are: regulatory requirements, such as Civil Aviation Authority regulations, a lack of industry standardisation guidance, limited testing and validation facilities to de-risk technologies, and access to independent cost models to ensure financial viability.

 

Download the Beyond Visual Line of Sight Summary Report

 

Reducing Subsea Cable Failures

Despite cables making up only 9% of an offshore wind farm’s costs, their failures account for 75-80% of insurance claims. Information about failures is scarce and lessons learned are rarely, if ever, shared – a major contributing factor to the cumulative 1.97 TWh loss of power generation that has cost the industry an estimated £227 million.

The Catapult collated publicly-available and confidential data to build an internal cable database platform, providing quantitative information and evidence to support building a consensus to solve common cable issues. The industry engagement carried out as part of the study is acting as a driver for a number of initiatives such as an innovation hub dedicated to subsea cables, innovation challenges, and SME technology demonstration opportunities at the 7MW Levenmouth Demonstration Turbine.

Download the Subsea Cables Summary Report

 

Local Wave Forecasting

Every day, marine co-ordinators and operational staff make the decision on sending technicians to offshore wind farms based on weather and wave forecasts. However, these decisions are made for the whole wind farm based on limited condition monitoring and weather prediction models. These do not take into account the variable wave heights across the farm’s area, and often trips to safe areas of the farm are aborted based on conditions in a more risky area.

This study identified the need for improved tools for decision-making, and starts to set out the hardware, processing and modelling requirements for more granular, short-term forecasting of wave heights around individual turbines. The development of such a system could help improve productivity, reduce aborted trips and make better use of weather windows, thereby reducing costs and turbine downtime and improving availability.

Download the Wave Prediction Summary Report

 

Monopile Foundations: Remaining Useful Life Assessment

With some of the world’s early offshore wind farms approaching the end of their expected life, owner/operators are, for the first time, being faced with decisions on whether to extend their lifetimes, re-power, or decommission. Life extension can maximise the potential of existing assets, but robust and reliable methods for assessing the remaining useful life of offshore wind foundations are crucial and, as yet, the industry has little experience in making these decisions.

The Catapult engaged with owner/operators and O&M service providers to find out their methods and approaches regarding monopile integrity and life assessment. The study found that the development of standards, advances in sensor technology and modelling, and the adoption of the oil and gas industry’s methodical approach to assessing monopile lifespan could all help provide answers for owners and operators with ageing assets.

Download the Monopile Assessment Summary Report

 

Autonomous Vehicles for Parts and Tools Delivery

Using autonomous vehicles to increase the accessibility of far-offshore wind farms has the potential to cut the time and cost of maintenance, leading to increased uptime and production. The OMCE launched a study to investigate the use of parts and tools delivery during the O&M phase which identified several areas in which autonomous and unmanned vehicles can add value.

The study found that up to 10% of trips to offshore wind turbines may be affected by a lack of proper tools and parts – a problem that could be solved by the use of unmanned aerial vehicles. The potential exists for fleets of aerial vehicles to perform complex tasks such as carrying heavy loads, requiring the development of algorithms for co-ordination. While autonomous underwater vehicles show great potential, communication and navigation issues remain a barrier to their widespread deployment. All of this creates a research opportunity to bring the various planning and execution areas under one roof in an enterprise system.

Download the Autonomous Vehicles for O&M Summary Report

 

Reducing Mandatory Inspections

Mandatory inspections on offshore wind farms are crucial for assuring the condition of assets and retaining project certification. But – important as they are – fulfilling this statutory requirement can be onerous in terms of technician hours, turbine downtime, and lost work hours. The OMCE studied the applicable regulations that impose mandatory inspections on offshore wind farms, and considered the extent to which they are justified in terms of risk, and how to make the process more efficient. It found that savings can be made through simple changes to management methods, but that work remains to be done to increase synergy between routine O&M and statutory inspections.

Download the Statutory Inspections Summary Report

 

ORE Catapult O&M Centre of Excellence

 


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