Safety Net: The world’s first in-field, unmanned search and rescue service for offshore wind farms

Published 13 October 2021 Last updated 13 October 2021

As the offshore wind industry grows, projects are moving into deeper water, further from shore and, critically, further from national rescue assets. Although very rare, accidents do occur for technicians working offshore, and when they do, a speedy and efficient rescue procedure is essential. The faster you can recover somebody from the water, the greater your chances of recovering them alive.

It is widely accepted in the industry that an offshore technician should never be more than 30 minutes from rescue. This requires the use of back up vessels onsite when the wind farm is more than 30 minutes from the nearest harbour. Current industry practice is to use crew transfer vessels (CTVs) and service operation vessel (SOV) daughter crafts to provide emergency response cover to operations far from shore.  

However, according to the latest incident report figures from the G+ Offshore Wind Health and Safety Association, CTVs account for the highest number of incidents offshore. Furthermore, as the industry moves towards the use of SOVs for wind farm maintenance far from shore, the deployment of daughter craft as lifeboats/standby vessels is becoming more common place. However, the launch and recovery of manned daughter craft can be inherently risky.  

The Solution 

Edinburgh-based Zelim (formally Offshore Survival Systems) is developing Safety Net, the world’s first in-field, unmanned search and rescue service for offshore wind farms. Zelim aims to revolutionise ‘far from shore’ operations by introducing remotely piloted lifesaving vessels available on permanent standby operation to enable a secondary means of rescue for offshore operations, with no additional risk to personnel. The service requires a network of remotely operated rescue vessels installed across the windfarm, or onboard SOV’s replacing conventional daughter craft, ready to rapidly deploy in case of an emergency. The system uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) and a patented conveyor system to locate and retrieve casualties quickly and smoothly from the water, providing them with a temporary safe haven with access to telemedicine (the remote delivery of healthcare services). 

Zelim is working towards the integration of these Unmanned Rescue Vessels (URVs) in offshore wind farms in an effort to not only improve health and safety but also significantly reduce costs and increase flexibility of O&M procedures, which currently accounts for 25-30% of total lifecycle costs.  

Zelim first got in touch with ORE Catapult in 2019 and this their journey with the Catapult so far… 


Zelim was one of nine companies selected to join the first cohort of successful SMEs and have access to a unique package of support from the National Launch Academy programme. The National Launch Academy paves the way for supply chain development in the offshore wind industry as a technology accelerator programme, focusing on near to market solutions. It is designed to enhance the UK’s offshore wind supply chain, enable greater UK content and support cost reduction through innovation. 

Sam Mayall, Founder of Zelim, said:

The Launch Academy put a turbo charger into our commercialisation programme. We were able to generate real traction with end users, forming partnerships with Red Rock Power and ScottishPower Renewables for R&D projects. With expert support, we secured investment and won two grants to support our technology development as well as establish an IP strategy and better articulate our value proposition to the offshore wind sector.“


After success as part of the  Launch Academy, ORE Catapult continued to support Zelim during Safety Net Phase 1, in partnership with Chartwell Marine, Orsted, Red Rock Power and ScottishPower Renewables, to further develop its novel disruptive technology to solve the challenge of efficient offshore rescues. The Safety Net project set out to assess the performance of a scale model unmanned rescue vessel, in order to investigate the vessels’ ability to recover casualties from the water in very rough weather.  

ORE Catapult supported Zelim during the tank testing, in which a scale model of the vessel was tested to assess the launch and transit performance of the technology and its ability to recover personnel from the water. This tank testing generated strong results on the vessel’s performance in a controlled environment, cementing in the minds of stakeholders the capabilities and potential of the technology.  

2021 and beyond 

As a result of the partnership with ORE Catapult, and the business growth of Zelim as a company, in January  2021 it was able to secure funding from the Offshore Wind Growth Partnership (OWGP) as part of a £1.3 million funding package for various SMEs to develop its AI-enabled detection technology.  

Zelim’s AI detection technology falls under a separate project known as SARBox, running in tandem with Safety Net. SARBox first kicked off in April 2021 and set out to develop an autonomous detection system using AI to rapidly detect a person in the water. Funding from OWGP allowed this technology to progress to Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 3 from TRL 2. SARBox has also gained additional funding of just under £300k from Innovate UK to further drive Zelim’s AI technology closer to market and along the TRLs to level 5.  

Looking into the future, the Safety Net project is about to enter its second phase. This time, it aims to demonstrate a full-scale prototype in real testing conditions, including a free fall drop test from 25 metres. If successful, Zelim will be able to finalise their design and initiate pilot tests with end users and key industry stakeholders. Within Phase 2, the Catapult will work with Zelim on the design and execution of the field test. ORE Catapult will also be responsible for a report summarising the results of the test. The test is currently planned  for Autumn 2022. 

As a result of this successful collaboration and continued support from ORE Catapult, Zelim has seen some impressive business growth. In less than two years, Zelim has gone from two employees at the start of the Launch Academy programme to nine, with plans to expand further over the coming years. Zelim is also in the process of raising £4.5 million in investments and is in talks with a Service Operation Vessel (SOV) provider in implementing their next generation remotely-operated daughter craft. Zelim has the opportunity to showcase its technology on a world stage later this November  at the COP26 conference.  

Since first getting in touch with ORE Catapult in 2019, Zelim has progressed its vessel from Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 2 to 6, with a very bright future ahead in its journey to commercialisation in the offshore wind sector.  

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Magnus Willet

Junior Project Manager

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