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DNV GL Sees Diving, Sailing and Crawling Robots in Offshore Wind’s Future

DNV GL has published a position paper on artificial intelligence (AI) in solar and wind energy industries, saying AI will increasingly automate operations over the next several years and boost efficiencies across the renewable energy sector.

Illustration; Technical University of Denmark’s (DTU) modular underwater robot for use on offshore wind farms. Image: DTU

The position paper Making Renewables Smarter: The benefits, risks, and future of artificial intelligence in solar and wind explores where artificial intelligence like machine learning will have an impact to increase efficiencies in the renewables industry. Areas include decision making and planning, condition monitoring, robotics, inspections, certifications and supply chain optimization, but also the way technical work is carried out.

Wind and solar generation plants have benefited from the fact that AI technologies have been commercially developed relatively recently and have had sensor technology installed from the beginning. As a result, most of the advances supported by artificial intelligence have been in resource forecasting, control and predictive maintenance.

DNV GL’s paper outlines how these AI advances are likely to progress further.

Flying, crawling, swimming, and sailing for remote inspection, would bring new beneits in maintenance and troubleshooting of offshore wind farms.

To automate the process and control the of autonomous drones for inspecting wind and PV plants, artificial intelligence will be required — from the system being able to recognize anomalies and even to steadying a drone in mid-air, DNV GL’s paper reads.

Aside from transporting parts of wind turbines across the globe, the biggest role for sailing robots would be in the construction, inspection and maintenance of offshore wind farms, DNV GL says. Artif icial intelligence will ensure the autonomous behaviour of the individual sailing robots, but also take an essential role in coordinating the efforts of the “army” of robots carrying out the construction.

The development of autonomous ROVs, specifically autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), is in its infancy, but the direction is clear, as they could help in the construction and maintenance of offshore wind farms. Simply automating the tasks the robots are doing now will provide lots of ideas and challenges for applying artificial intelligence.

Furthermore, crawling robots that can get close to a structure’s surface will enable a new set of technologies such as microwave and ultrasonic transmitters and receivers, which can be used to penetrate structures to reveal faults in materials.

The artificial intelligence itself is seen as accelerating due diligence, so that planning an analysis that today might require many human hours and thousands of documents can be reduced by an enormous factor in the future, and even enhanced.

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