Advances in automation and sensing are changing the debate over offshore safety. As technical capabilities increase, industry thinking is moving away from discussions about mitigating risk and towards ways to minimise the need for personnel to be offshore altogether. Doing this efficiently can also carry with it some innate cost benefits. Yet not all construction, monitoring and maintenance can be done remotely – the marine and offshore industries still need a degree of flexibility.
Such a scenario is being explored by researchers at Heriot-Watt University, who are developing a human-robotics hybrid solution for the maintenance and operation of offshore wind farms. Their consortium – the Holistic Operation and Maintenance for Energy from Offshore Wind Farms (HOME-Offshore) – has recently been given a share of a GBP4 million (US$5 million) grant to create advanced health monitoring of these complex assets, which will integrate the remote inspection and repair capabilities of robotics and autonomous systems to inspect the condition of critical sub-systems, such as subsea power cables, in order to identify problems early and, ultimately, extend their lifespan.