Four Norwegian technology companies plan to battle stormy weather together by developing heavy duty cargo drones. The goal is safer operations and expanded weather windows for the transfer of goods and equipment between supply ships and oil platforms or rigs.
The project has been named “Safer Logistics from Unmanned Helicopters”. Using unmanned quadcopters, that is, powerful and large drones, lifting operations can be less vulnerable to wind, poor visibility, darkness, waves, as well as pitching and rolling on boats and rigging.
The project is headed by Tromsø-based research and innovation company Norut, which has experience in developing autonomous control systems for unmanned airplanes, as well as operating operations under challenging weather conditions in Arctic waters.
Weather conditions often lead to delays in supplying goods such as food, consumables and marine equipment installations, wrote Norut in a press release. Also, the offshore logistics capabilities of a UAV solution must have a high degree of automation, where departure, landing and delivery of cargo can take place on a boat moving in the sea.
Drone company Griff Aviation has for a long time been working on developing drones capable of carrying load loads of several hundred kilograms.
Should drones be a real alternative to conventional crane lift, the logistics drone must be able to operate safely under weather conditions, which is at least as challenging as today’s operations.
The technology company Stable delivers advanced stabilization technology and will solve the main challenge of the research project: To further develop the management systems so that the drones can start and operate from a moving, maritime platform.
According to Norut’s press release, the company’s task is to develop a stable platform for launching and landing the logistics drone. The platform would be placed in a container on deck, which also acts as the drones hangar between the flight missions. Route planning and dynamic models for the interaction between drone, undercarriage and moving landing platforms are focus areas.
Offshore oil company Olympic Subsea, with 11 construction vessels in the fleet, is also involved in the project.
It is not clear at this time how big or heavy elements the project aims to be able to transfer with drones, however they have already been using smaller drones offshore for inspection tasks. Better and more stable drones that can withstand wind and weather would extend the limits of operation.
Chief Researcher of upstream technology in Statoil, Kjetil Skaugset, said that drills could save them large amounts, including visual inspection of surfaces, welding seams, tanks and process equipment. “We believe drones can help us get better insight into the condition of the equipment, so that maintenance can be done when needed, not at specified time intervals,” said Skaugset.
The project is globally unique and will improve the efficiency of maritime operations involving lifting of cargo. The project is supported financially by the Research Council of Norway.