Can drones deliver the goods?
Offshore wind power facilities facing decisive years.
The air cargo industry is developing in many ways; logistics companies’ commitment to drone projects is one interesting element thereof (see also page 14 of ITJ 19-20 / 2022). Two German projects are taking a look at opportunities to serve offshore wind farms with drones.
The German energy corporation EnBW, whose installed capacity from renewable energies is expected to amount to about 50% of its total portfolio in around three years, uses various concepts for its plant maintenance activities. The methods employed in the offshore wind energy sector are safe and well-rehearsed – but time-consuming and cost-intensive.
The idea of using heavylift drones to bring the maintenance tools and materials needed directly to a point 100 m above the wind turbine eliminates the need for crane work. Project manager and offshore specialist Jonas Janke explained that “our role is to bring wind mills and heavy-duty drones together and try to solve some of the fundamental challenges. One thing that needs to be clarified is how the landing platforms and transport containers of wind farms should be designed to enable drones to be deployed.”
To this end EnBW is participating in a research project that includes comprehensive practical tests at the ‘Offshore Drone Challenge’ in summer 2024, to which interested technology companies will also be invited. The project is funded by one of Germany’s federal ministries and will also define the legal framework by 2025.
Wingcopter is already likely to be one step ahead by then. The Zeitfracht Group, together with its subsidiary German Airways, plans to use aircraft from the southwestern German drone manufacturer from the second half of 2024 on.
Initially, 17 transport drones (there’s an option for another 115) will deliver spare parts for wind farms from Rostock airport, which the Zeitfracht Group took over a few months ago (see page 14 of ITJ 49-52 / 2021). A Zeitfracht subsidiary, Opus Marine, is already active in the promising offshore business segment.