Tethys Energy Services (Tethys) and Aerones have won a major competition to demonstrate a novel remote blade maintenance technique for offshore wind farms to one of the industry’s leading turbine manufacturers.

The two companies have won a blade robotics innovation competition launched by GE Renewable Energy, the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult and KTN, which called for robotics solutions focussed on automating maintenance activities and reducing unplanned offshore activity during the O&M phase of offshore wind turbine blades.

Tethys and Aerones will deliver a new offshore transportation and delivery platform to enable the Aerones onshore wind robotics technology to work offshore. The system will be able to deliver advanced remote inspection, maintenance and repair tasks on offshore wind turbine blades up to 5x faster than conventional rope access, drastically reducing turbine downtime. It is also more scalable and much safer to deploy, removing the need for personnel to work at height.

The next stage in development will see Tethys and Aerones demonstrate their prototype technology on ORE Catapult’s 7MW Levenmouth Demonstration Turbine in Fife. In addition, GE Renewable Energy will provide technical support and guidance on how the technology could be used on the company’s offshore projects.

Tethys is establishing its operations base in the UK, from which it will provide an increased variety of proven, innovative services to wind farms across Europe, growing its UK-based employees to 40 by 2024. Aerones intends to explore options for manufacturing the robots in the UK, creating a high value robotics manufacturing site, focussed on offshore wind.

The innovation competition, the first in a planned series of challenge competitions, was developed as part of GE and ORE Catapult’s Stay Ashore research and development programme and was delivered through the Offshore Wind Innovation Hub’s Innovation Exchange (OWiX) in partnership with KTN. Through OWiX, KTN and ORE Catapult actively searched the robotics industry to bring GE the best solutions that the UK has to offer. The adoption of robotics technology is seen as vital for the offshore wind sector, which, according to ORE Catapult research, could cut its inspection costs by almost 40% through integrating remote operations, robotics and automated systems into operations and maintenance activities.

Vincent Schellings, Chief Technology Officer for Offshore Wind at GE Renewable Energy, said “Innovative robotics solutions such as this have the ability to significantly reduce operation & maintenance cost for offshore wind turbines like the Haliade-X, the most powerful turbine in operation today.  We look forward to working with these and other partners committing to drive the continued growth of offshore wind in the UK.”