Experts told Sky News that drones and unmanned boats could be used to maintain offshore wind farms in the UK for the next five years.
A team of scholars from the University Bristol France-based Thales Engineering and Science is testing a technology that will ultimately eliminate the need for humans to play the dangerous role.
The operation involves artificial intelligence (AI) boats carrying unmanned drones to wind turbines at sea, before takeoff and landing on the turbine blades and making repairs.
Tom Richardson, of the University of Bristol who is leading the team, said: “The number of turbines that we have are almost exponentially increasing.
“There’s a lot out there. They are out there, and they’re in a really challenging environment, and we have to be able to fix them in the long term to keep generating power for us.”
It is believed that the technology could be used by energy companies in the next five to ten years.
The invention came at the right time – given the UK government’s recent announcement on wind power.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced this Offshore wind farms It will generate enough electricity to power every home in the country within 10 years.
He said he wanted the UK to become the “world leader” in green energy.
Artificial intelligence boats and drones are being tested in Plymouth, Which features dedicated smart voice – a space where autonomous sea technology and artificial intelligence can be openly tested.
Chris Wardman, who heads Thales’ Independent Maritime Administration, told Sky News the move is about removing human workers from dangerous roles – not taking their jobs.
“It is really important in this type of business that we don’t take on people’s jobs, but what we do is increase that in people’s roles and make things more efficient.
“We are moving towards a green environment, using less carbon, and all of these kinds of things can be done through the use of independence,” he said.
Another use of the unmanned boat system developed by Thales is to cleanse the oceans of plastic waste.
In partnership with the University of Southampton, the project could see a fleet of 20 to 30 motorized boats spend months in areas of dense plastic waste at sea.
Professor Steve Turnock, who is working on the idea, told Sky News: “We know that there are parts of the ocean where the plastic comes together, but it’s still spread over a large area, so with these robotic compounds, we can spread it across large areas and use relatively few. Of people or not using them to get them to work together and meet the challenge of removing these plastics from the oceans. “
He said having unmanned autonomous boats to clean up the oceans might only be a few years away, and people were already experimenting with new systems.
“In five to ten years I can see this as part of everyday life. Not only in ocean plastic, but in ocean exploration,” he said.
“It’s all about the economy. If you look at the cost of operating at sea, it has to be big enough to travel fast enough to get there.
“Then it travels slowly around space. All these people will be on the ship – you pay them, etc.”
“So if you have a small craft, but a lot of it is working in a larger area all the time, that would be more cost effective.”