Drones Inspect Block Island Wind Farm


Deepwater Wind recently carried out drone inspections at its Block Island Wind Farm, the U.S.’ first operating offshore wind facility.

The unmanned aircraft system (UAS) used for the inspection of the five wind platforms off Block Island, R.I., was developed by ULC Robotics, which used a marine vessel for takeoff and landing.

The aircraft was outfitted with a high-resolution DSLR camera to capture detailed imagery of the turbines’ support structure and welds. Engineers from Keystone Engineering Inc., which designed the foundations for Deepwater Wind, then used the drone-captured data to deliver an accurate and fast assessment of the platforms.

“This initial collaboration between Deepwater Wind and ULC Robotics resulted in a very successful set of flights and data,” comments Gregory Penza, president of ULC Robotics. “Our team of engineers and pilots are already building advanced prototype vertical takeoff and landing UAS that will be capable of servicing the growing offshore wind market. This new UAS will support the full life cycle of wind turbines from siting and environmental monitoring to construction surveys and emergency response.”

The imagery and data obtained during these flights will be used as a baseline for comparative data following future flights, the partners note.

“Conventional inspection typically requires a team of engineers to board the platform and use a series of ladders to climb to the platform,” says Captain John O’Keeffe, manager of operations and maintenance and marine affairs at Deepwater Wind. “Using drones, ULC Robotics’ aerial services team was able to deliver more detailed data without the risks associated with climbing up to the platform, improving the safety of our team.”

O’Keeffe continues, “A key part of delivering reliable, clean energy to the U.S. is having the access to critical data on our infrastructure. In addition to providing advanced data, drones will allow Deepwater Wind to continue to be a pioneer in offshore wind development and deliver our commitments to communities and the environment.”

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