iXblue has released an article detailing the use of its innovative INS, subsea positioning and imagery solutions, and unmanned platforms within the challenging environments of offshore wind energy.
With hundreds new offshore wind projects in development around the world and a growth of nearly 30% per year, offshore wind is a rapidly maturing renewable energy technology that offers great potential. Bolstered by national policies and decreasing technological costs, the global offshore wind market is set to expand strongly in the coming decades, whether in Europe, Asia or the US and is forecasted to “increase fifteen-fold to 2040, becoming a $1 trillion industry over the next two decades”.
Leveraging decades of offshore energy expertise, iXblue is a trusted partner in this transition towards more sustainable offshore energy. Already used on offshore wind farm projects around the world, the company’s innovative technologies (inertial navigation systems, subsea positioning and imagery solutions, as well as uncrewed autonomous platforms) offer proven performance and reliability within the challenging environments of offshore wind energy posed by shallow waters and high winds.
Requiring less equipment to be put at sea, and offering disruptive, yet proven, uncrewed solutions and advanced subsea sensors, iXblue helps operators achieve operational efficiency by bringing down costs and reducing hours spent at sea, while also improving worker safety and lowering operations’ carbon emissions.
From environmental studies, UXO surveys and site investigation, to construction, operations, and predictive maintenance, iXblue is a trusted technology provider for every stage of wind farm development and operating life.
Unique versatile uncrewed platforms for more flexible operations at sea
As a major provider of advanced marine and autonomy technologies, iXblue is playing a central role in the advancement of operational efficiency within the Offshore industry. With its DriX Uncrewed Surface Vehicle (USV) and FlipiX Remotely Operated Towed Vehicle (ROTV) the company provides comprehensive autonomous survey capabilities that offer improved performance and greater operational efficiency for various applications including environmental, geophysical, UXO and as laid survey, Inspection Maintenance and Repair (IMR), as well as biomass assessment.
Offering outstanding seakeeping capabilities (up to sea state 5) thanks to its unique design, the DriX USV is perfectly suited to the challenging offshore wind environments. Able to host a wide range of different payloads for multi-mission capabilities (MBES, SBP, USBL, INS, FLS…), its high stability ensures to collect high quality and accurate data, even in high sea-state – recent operations using DriX have incidentally shown that data cleaning could be reduced from 90%. Combined with the FlipiX ROTV, a unique conveyance platform for Side Scan Sonars (SSS) and magnetometers, this global uncrewed solution enhances the autonomous survey scope, enabling to conduct bathymetric, geophysics and UXO survey in a single run. This drastically reducing survey time and removing the need for costly support vessels.
Deploying iXblue autonomous platforms on offshore wind farms sites also means conducting operations with a reduced impact on the environment. Consuming only 50 liters of fuel per day, the DriX USV can indeed replace ships of about 60 meters whose daily consumption is about 5000 liters of fuel. This means that the ecological footprint of operations at sea can be reduced by a factor of 100 compared to traditional vessels. Finally, as pioneers in uncrewed maritime solutions, iXblue further helps ensure the safety of personnel, reducing their global exposure at sea. The company’s uncrewed solutions can indeed be supervised from Remote Control Centers (located either onshore or on a Mother Vessel) using reliable Over The Horizon capabilities thanks to advanced communication means and obstacle avoidance systems.
Advanced sensors offering unrivaled performance and reliability in shallow waters
Increased efficiency can further be reached when combining iXblue’s uncrewed solutions with the company’s trusted subsea positioning and imaging solutions such as the Gaps Series of USBL Systems, the company’s complete range of Inertial Navigation Systems (INS), as well as the Sams Synthetic Aperture Mapping Sonars, Echoes sub-bottom profilers, and SeapiX 3D multibeam echosounders.
Compatible with third-party assets for better interoperability, all iXblue sensors can be deployed from a wide range of platforms, from traditional vessels to uncrewed surface and subsea vehicles, and are easy to integrate into existing pools of equipment and operational fields with no compromise on performance or reliability, ultimately bringing increased flexibility and efficiency.
Compact and lightweight, the Gaps Series of USBL subsea positioning systems have incidentally already been selected within the renewable energy industry to conduct various operations such as UXO pre-survey and structure deployments.
Easy to deploy, the Gaps USBL systems embed their own motion sensors and do not require any on-the-field calibration. Offering unmatched accuracy in very shallow waters and horizontal tracking conditions, they are especially suited to the environments encountered on wind farm development sites. Coupled to iXblue subsea Inertial Navigation Systems (INS/AHRS), that already equip over 80% of the subsea vehicles used in the Energy and Geoscience industries, the Gaps Series will power highly accurate positioning and tracking of subsea assets such as AUV, ROV or Towfish. It will also be the perfect technology for cable laying and touch down monitoring operations that require highly robust horizontal tracking capability.
iXblue unique subsea imagery solutions such as the Sams Series of Synthetic Aperture Mapping Sonars (SAS), Echoes sub-bottom Profilers and SeapiX 3D multibeam echosounder are also perfectly adapted to wind farms applications. Relying on 20 years of field proven technologies, the wide range of iXblue subsea imagery solutions extends from water column analysis to seabed mapping and monitoring and meets all renewable energy installations and surveillance needs.
The Sams Synthetic Aperture Mapping Sonars provide unprecedented performance compared to conventional side scan sonars even in the very shallow waters encountered within wind farms environments. They deliver, in real time, both high-resolution images of the seabed and interferometric bathymetry required for site and route survey. The Echoes Series of sub-bottom profilers will highlight the sedimentary deposits architecture and gas release, as well as high reflective buried objects, such as cable, pipelines and boulders. The iXblue Sams and Echoes Series will therefore be particularly useful for field extension phases, cable route surveillance and inspection and maintenance operations.
Finally, the company’s SeapiX 3D multibeam echosounder will enable highly accurate classification of marine ecosystems and quantification of biomass, fish and shoal dynamics. This real-time biomass monitoring in a static position thus enables the study of the natural resource evolution throughout the whole offshore wind project lifecycle.
Overall, iXblue comprehensive set of technologies, from sensors to autonomous conveyance platforms, offer unmatched performance, reliability, and versatility, allowing operators to conduct accurate but efficient operations in a reduced timeframe and with increased safety. Smaller and smarter technologies that do not require large vessels and big crews to be deployed, they reduce the hours spent at sea, and will play a central role in the transition of the offshore energy industry towards a more sustainable future.