Ørsted has invented, designed and developed the first uncrewed surface vessel (USV) in the industry that is capable of carrying out offshore ‘met-ocean’ measurement campaigns. The measurement data will help lower uncertainties in the expected annual energy production for new offshore wind farms. Ørsted, which has patented the USV concept, sees enormous potential in the technology and has initiated serial production based on its successful prototype.
The prototype USV is named Hugin USV. It is designed for continuous operation in the harshest offshore conditions for a year at a time. It has a built-in navigation system, which enables it to operate from shore with various degrees of autonomy, and it can be controlled both in line-of-sight or from a beyond-line-of-sight remote control centre.
The USV is designed as a generic sensor platform and can collect large amounts of data on, among other things, the wind conditions, the state of the seabed, and biological and ecological measurements, all dependent on the sensor instrumentation chosen for a given operation. The broad range of measurements collected by the USV is essential for Ørsted’s early-phase development activities prior to the construction of new wind farms.
The USV concept was invented by Ørsted employees and has been patented. The design, development, construction, and testing of the prototype USV was conducted as part of the company’s innovation programme in collaboration with selected industry partners. The prototype was constructed by the Danish shipbuilder Tuco Marine Group, and the USV control system was delivered by the Norwegian company Maritime Robotics AS.
Ørsted credits its decision to work with small and innovative companies, combining their specialist expertise in vessel construction and autonomous control systems with Ørsted’s knowledge of offshore measurement operations, with achieving success in delivering a short time-to-market USV prototype with exceptional performance.
Frederik Søndergaard Hansen, programme manager and co-inventor of the USV concept, said: "What's so special about our USV concept is that it can bring our measurement equipment to and from our offshore sites without the need for large, specialised support vessels, and, while on site, it can operate autonomously for extended periods of time, measuring large amounts of data that can be sent onshore and processed in real time. The USV concept enables Ørsted to obtain a consistently high data availability, which is essential for achieving the highest possible certainty regarding the annual energy production for new offshore wind farms.
Ørsted’s USV concept is said to have several advantages over conventional solutions – it improves safety by removing the risk for offshore technicians, reduces the overall carbon emissions significantly, and increases the operational window as it can operate safely in high sea state conditions. It is also expected to significantly lower costs of conducting offshore measurement campaigns. The prototype vessel has been tested in Danish and Norwegian waters and has been operational during hurricane conditions, where it experienced waves up to nine metres in the North Sea. It has also achieved type validation as a floating LiDAR system by the internationally accredited Norwegian classification society ‘Det Norske Veritas’ (DNV), enabling it to be used for commercial operations related to wind farm development.
Ørsted has started serial production of a new class of USVs, which are being constructed in Denmark by Tuco Marine Group, with control systems by Maritime Robotics, which is a continuation of the collaboration from the prototype USV. The expectation is to produce five new USVs by the end of 2023.