When you think of drone delivery, you probably imagine a medium-sized drone bringing coffee or snacks to a customer waiting outside his home in a residential area. What you won’t imagine are huge pilotless multi-rotor machines carrying payloads across choppy waters to giant wind turbines.
But that’s exactly what energy company Ørsted is starting to do in the North Sea off the east coast of England
In what it claims is a world first, Ørsted is currently flight-testing a 128-pound (58-kilogram) drone to lower cargo onto a wind turbine.
The company describes the drone as having “the weight equivalent to a large baby giraffe, with the wingspan of an albatross.” It is operated by drone specialist Skylift and you can see it in action in the video below:
Using drones to unload cargo helps Ørsted reduce costs and save time while improving safety. The flying machine has eight sets of rotors in a quadcopter configuration and is operated from crew transfer vessels and service vessels already on site, so additional drone-only sailing is not necessary.
“Drones mean fewer work interruptions because turbines do not have to be turned off when cargo is delivered,” Ørsted said in the release. “They avoid risk, making it safer for personnel working on wind farms and minimizing the need to make multiple boat trips, thereby reducing carbon emissions and the impact of climate change.”
The company has been testing smaller drones but recently switched to larger machines capable of carrying heavier payloads.
Mikkel Haugaard Windolf, who leads the project for Ørsted’s offshore logistics team, said he believes the UK could be the first country to commercialize this system in offshore wind farms.
Flying over water gives drone operators greater freedom to use larger machines and carry heavier objects as many restrictions still apply regarding drone flights over people and buildings.
Amazon, Wing and UPS are among a number of companies looking to use drones to deliver packages to customers, but strict regulations have slowed progress in rolling out the widely used platforms.
However, as drones advance, it is interesting to see how various industries are gradually turning to the technology in an effort to make their work safer and more efficient.