As the offshore wind industry grows, projects are moving further offshore. Although rare, accidents do occur for individuals working in these conditions, and when they do, a speedy and efficient rescue procedure is essential.
Current industry practice is to use crew transfer vessels (CTVs) and service operation vessels (SOVs) to provide an emergency response. However, incident figures have shown that CTVs account for the highest number of incidents offshore.
Furthermore, as the industry moves towards the use of SOVs for offshore wind farm maintenance, the deployment of lifeboats or standby vessels is becoming more common place. However, the launch and recovery of these vessels is inherently risky.
Edinburgh-based Zelim is developing Safety Net, the world’s first in-field, unmanned search and rescue service for offshore wind farms.
The company is working on remotely piloted lifesaving vessels – Unmanned Rescue Vessels (URVs) – that would be on permanent standby 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 SOVs, ready to rapidly deploy in case of emergency.
The system uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) and a patented conveyor system to locate and retrieve casualties quickly from the water and providing them with onboard access to telemedicine (the remote delivery of healthcare services).
Zelim is working towards integration of URVs in offshore wind farms to significantly reduce costs and increase the flexibility of O&M procedures, which accounts for approximately 25% of total lifecycle costs.
Zelim first started working with ORE Catapult in 2019 and has seen impressive business growth since then.
Zelim was one of nine companies selected to join the first cohort of ORE Catapult’s national Launch Academy programme. Launch Academy is a technology accelerator programme, focused on developing near to market solutions in the offshore wind industry.
Sam Mayall, CEO of Zelim, said:
“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 graduating from 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. The Safety Net project set out to assess the performance of a scale model unmanned rescue vessel, to investigate the vessels’ ability to recover casualties from the water in very rough weather.
ORE Catapult supported Zelim during tank testing, where 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, proving the capabilities and potential of the technology.
As a result of partnership with ORE Catapult, Zelim secured funding from the Offshore Wind Growth Partnership (OWGP) in January 2021 as part of a £1.3 million funding package for SMEs, to develop AI-enabled detection technology, alongside the Safety Net project.
SARBox, the AI detection technology project, started in April 2021 to develop an autonomous detection system using AI to rapidly detect a person in the water. The OWGP funding allowed the technology to progress to Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 3 from TRL 2. SARBox also gained £300k from Innovate UK to accelerate Zelim’s AI technology to market.
Safety Net entered its second phase, aiming to demonstrate a full-scale prototype in real testing conditions.
In May 2022, Zelim trialled the SARBox person overboard detection solution in a joint offshore wind emergency response exercise at Orsted’s Race Bank wind farm. It also secured the Innovation Showcase Safety Award at the European Commercial Maritime Awards in June.
The company started the build of the world’s first rescue vessel with remote operation capability, known as the Guardian 1, at Coastal Workboats boat yard in Exeter and in December, Zelim kicked off an OWGP grant funded project to demonstrate the Guardian.
In December 2022, Zelim raised £2.3m investment and has expanded from 2 employees in 2019 to 11.
Zelim’s first product, the Swift rescue conveyor, which is the fastest overboard recovery device on the market, will be trialled on a CWind CTV at Vattenfall’s Thanet wind farm off the coast of Kent in March.