When you think of drone delivery, you probably imagine a medium-sized drone carrying a coffee or small snack to a customer waiting outside their home in a residential area. What you might not think of is a large, pilotless, multi-rotor machine that moves cargo in shallow water for a massive wind turbine.
But energy company Ørsted has started doing exactly that in the North Sea off the east coast of Britain
In what it claims is a world first, Orsted is currently testing flights of a 128-pound (58-kilogram) drone to drop cargo for wind turbines.
The company describes the drone as having “the weight of a large baby giraffe and the wingspan of an albatross.” It is operated by drone experts Skylift and you can see it in the video below:
Using drones to offload cargo helps Ørsted reduce costs and save time as well as improve safety. The flying machines have eight sets of rotors in a quadcopter configuration and are operated from existing crew transfer ships and service vessels that are already on site, so additional sailing is not necessary just for the drones.
“Drones mean less hassle at work because the turbines don’t have to be shut down when delivering cargo,” Ørsted said in a release. “They avoid risks, making it safer for personnel working on wind farms and reducing the need for multiple trips by ship, thereby reducing carbon emissions and climate change impacts.”
The company has already tested small drones but has recently moved on to larger machines capable of carrying heavier payloads.
Mikael Haugaard Windolf, who is leading the project from Ørsted’s Offshore Logistics team, said he believes the UK could become the first country to commercialize the system at offshore wind farms.
Flying over water gives drone operators more freedom to deploy larger machines and carry heavier objects as many restrictions still apply when it comes to drone flights over people and buildings.
Amazon, Wing and UPS are among the many companies looking to use drones for package delivery to customers, but strict regulations have slowed progress toward the rollout of a widely used platform.
Still, as drones advance, it is interesting to see how various industries are slowly turning to the technology to make their work safer and more efficient.