BladeBUG trialling at ORE Catapult’s National Renewable Energy Centre

Robotics and Autonomous Systems


Adoption of robotics and autonomous systems by the offshore wind sector will be vital to achieving the renewables expansion needed for Net Zero.

There are three compelling reasons why:

  1. To achieve our net zero targets, the UK’s offshore wind capacity will need to increase more than sevenfold by 2050. That means pushing operations into ever-deeper, more remote and more treacherous waters with narrower weather windows for safe human access.
  2. Robotics can take on the routine maintenance tasks (such as scouring the surfaces of thousands of blades for critical cracking and erosion (there are 30,000 currently at UK wind farms – onshore and offshore) or checking the approximately 10 million bolts at these farms for loss of tension and integrity. Ultimately, this will mean better pre-emptive maintenance and control over these essential net-zero assets.
  3. Finally, with better pre-emptive maintenance, we can extend the lifetime of components and turbines at sea, helping the industry progress to a circular, zero-waste economy.


Future Markets

ORE Catapult’s mission is to identify, develop and accelerate the UK’s home-grown goods and services that will corner the future offshore wind and relevant spin-off markets (like onshore wind and other offshore industries). In this case, we work with developers of robotic, artificial intelligence and autonomous systems, as well as end users and asset owners.

We estimate the future market for these systems will reach £8.4 billion per year globally by 2050 in offshore wind and related energy sectors like onshore wind and nuclear. Wind alone will represent a £3.5 billion market for robotics, as part of an overall £120 billion operations and maintenance market by 2050.

The Innovation Challenges

According to the Offshore Wind Innovation Hub Report Qualifying the Impact of Robotics in Offshore Wind (2021): “One of the many uncertainties that the offshore wind industry is currently facing is the ability to quantify the impact of robotics. There are many different technologies and applications of robotics in the offshore industry, research is still ongoing with novel robots, analytics and software applications being developed in order to support [offshore wind] assets throughout their lifetime”.

The same report highlights key challenge areas for robotic development from feedback across key stakeholders (robotic technology developers, academia, service providers, wind farm owners, OEMs):

  • Economic viability as an alternative to current methods
  • Technological capable to perform current operations
  • Provision of collaborative ecosystems
  • Reliability and trust issues with humans
  • Access to funding


Our Services

ORE Catapult’s role is to identify, accelerate and grow promising UK robotics technologies (and related innovations in artificial intelligence, smart technologies, data and digital) as a first step. To achieve this, we run a variety of supply chain support programmes and collaborative innovation projects working with SMEs, academia and industry.

Test and Validation

Derisking these technologies for adoption by industry is the crucial next step: developers can test and gain independent validation of their technologies at our network of test and validation facilities, from our Levenmouth Demonstration Turbine in Fife to our National Renewable Energy Centre in Blyth (Northumberland) and Operations and Maintenance Centre of Excellence in Grimsby.

Robotics developer BladeBUG trials at ORE Catapult’s Levenmouth Demonstration Turbine in Fife


In the coming year, we are embarking on expansion of our Blyth facilities for robotics and autonomous systems and growing our remote supervisory, simulation and digital capabilities too. World-class testing facilities, convincing business cases and consultation with industry to ensure our stable of technologies meet their requirements are vital to the UK realising its future leadership role in robotics and offshore renewables.

Find out more about our technology innovation and research projects, facilities, analysis and insights and supply chain innovation programmes in our interactive guide.

ORE Catapult Services Brochure

Visualisation of ORE Catapult’s extended facilities for test and validation of RAS technologies in Blyth at its National Renewable Energy Centre


Analytics & Insights Library

The Economic Opportunity for Robotics in Offshore Wind and Key Energy Markets (2021)

Offshore Wind Innovation Hub Report Quantifying the Impact of Robotics in Offshore Wind (2021)

ReEnergise Podcast:The Role of Robotics in the Future of Offshore Wind and Net Zero (2021)

The WASP Report and Road-Map on Autonomous Ships (2020)

Key projects

MIMRee (Multi-Platform Inspection, Maintenance and Repair in Extreme Environments) for progressing a scenario of end-to-end robotic operations an maintenance at offshore wind farms

BladeBUG – development of an inspect-and-repair robot for blades and combined system (with EchoBolt’s ultrasonic inspection solution) for bolts.

Amphibian – an amphibious robot for inspection and cleaning of turbine structures.

HydroSurv – an autonomous surface vessel for environmental surveys.

SubSLAM X2 – a subsea inspection robot developed by Vaarst (formerly under the Rovco brand)


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