Trials of what its owners claim is the first time an underwater inspection vehicle has operated truly autonomously have been carried out at the Nordsee One offshore wind farm in the German North Sea.

The A.Ikanbilis ‘hovering’ autonomous underwater vehicle (HAUV) was conducted in a joint project by manufacturer BeeX Pte and Subsea Europe Services.

BeeX on turbine

A.Ikanbilis on a turbine

They say the HAUV ‘demonstrated true autonomous operation of an underwater inspection vehicle for the first time ever’, at the same time demonstrating ‘the transformative potential of true autonomy’.

During the trial, the vehicle inspected monopile foundations including current cathodic protection anodes and cable protection systems without any human getting involved.

“The ability to make these decisions without operator input is possible due to the AI continuously learning from the suite of tightly integrated sensors, allowing intelligent adaption to complex and changing environments, such as tides, currents and visibility,” the operators said.

User Interface

User Interface

It also did not need any onsite support vessel, and geo-referenced reporting of the monopile condition and 3D CPS inspection was provided in near real-time via an integrated cloud-based platform, reducing the typical weeks-long wait for traditional reports to mere seconds.

The A.Ikanbilis has an AI-powered engine that allows true ‘launch and leave’ functions for different underwater tasks, whether tethered or untethered.

Equipment and manpower costs are thus slashed, while capacity and safety are increased.

“While we hear a lot about remotely-operated and autonomous technologies for marine data acquisition and underwater inspection, this is the first time we have witnessed a platform actually think and react accordingly to ensure an optimal approach based on the prevailing conditions,” said Jan Schmökel, Balance of Plant Engineer at Nordsee One GmbH. “The speed and quality of the data reporting are unprecedented, and we are delighted to be trialling these innovations to achieve maximum value at our windfarms.”