A wind and solar powered 16-foot catamaran will autonomously perform wind resource assessments for future offshore wind developments.

The Datamaran operates completely autonomously without a manned support vessel

The Datamaran operates completely autonomously without a manned support vessel

Equinor and Autonomous Marine Systems Inc. (AMS) have partnered on the project to reduce the cost of gathering crucial data for successful development of offshore wind energy projects. After several years of testing, the Datamaran is ready for commercial deployment as an autonomous platform for wind resource assessments When fully operational, this technology will contribute to lowering the price of offshore wind energy to consumers around the world.

The rapidly deployable, 16-foot wind and solar powered Datamaran carries a LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) to collect data on wind and weather conditions at remote offshore wind lease areas. LiDar is a well-established technology used to record wind characteristics hundreds of feet above the surface of the water.

Over the last 18 months, Equinor and AMS have conducted studies and built prototypes to test the system. These have shown dramatic improvements in lead time, cost and areal coverage versus today’s options. Currently, this data is collected by a combination of a large vessel traversing the offshore wind area and a LiDAR system mounted to an anchored, stationary buoy.

“In keeping with our partnership with Equinor, we’ve named this latest class of vessels ‘Njord.’ We launched it successfully last week, and now we’re looking forward to deploying the technology worldwide to deliver order-of-magnitude benefits to offshore wind development,” Ravijit Paintal, CEO of AMS, said.

The Datamaran operates completely autonomously without a manned support vessel. It continuously transmits acquired data and vessel health status to onshore operations via fault-tolerant communication channels. The vessel is propelled by a rigid wing sail while the LiDAR, navigation, and communication systems are powered by deck and sail mounted solar panels and large batteries. The elimination of on-board fossil-fuel-burning engines delivers the most environmentally friendly survey system available today.

In addition, standard integration interfaces enable broad flexibility in sensor payload and survey types such as standard meteorological ocean, bathymetric and hydrographic, current and wave characteristics, avian and marine mammal detection, and alerting.

“Equinor’s collaboration with Massachusetts start-up AMS underscores our commitment to collaborate with, invest in, and support local business. The emergence of the US offshore wind energy industry presents an exciting opportunity for local, nimble, innovative companies to partner with established wind-farm developers,” President of Equinor Wind US Christer Af Geijerstam said.

By Jake Frith