Support from Marine-i is enabling Falco Drone Technologies to develop a pioneering new drone which could play a vital role in the inspection and maintenance of floating offshore wind installations.
A prototype of its innovative design will commence trials in the summer.
Part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, Marine-i is designed to help the marine tech sector in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly grow through harnessing the full potential of research and innovation.
Existing drone technology is limited by two crucial factors: flight times and the ability to fly in adverse weather. High winds exacerbate this problem further, reducing flight times and grounding most drones in wind speeds over 25 mph – a particularly bad problem for exposed offshore installations.
Falco Drone Technologies’ innovative design looks to address these issues. Director, Patrick Maletz, explained: “Our technology allows for drastically improved flight performance of multirotor drones by mimicking bird flight. The technology allows drones to efficiently harness local wind energy to supplement lift whilst being able to fly long distances with the efficiencies of a plane, perfectly blending the benefits of fixed wing and multirotor aircraft.
“The typical flight time for a conventional battery powered drone is at most one hour and often much less. We believe that we can increase this up to six hours.”
To accelerate development, the company engaged with Marine-i. Neil Farrington, regional innovation manager at Marine-i partner, the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult, said:
“There are two main elements to the Marine-i support package. ORE Catapult is providing expert analysis of the offshore energy surveying and O&M tasks that could be delivered by this new technology.
“In summer 2021, we will move to the crucial stage, which will be launch and recovery trials at our Levenmouth Demonstration Turbine off the Fife coast.”
Professor Lars Johanning of University of Exeter, lead partner for Marine-i, added: “To seize the fast growing opportunities in offshore renewables including floating wind, Marine-i is working with innovative businesses like Falco Drone Technologies which have the talent to make these kinds of creative leaps in technology and design.
“Marine-i is providing world class RD&I support to help accelerate commercialisation. If successful, this ground-breaking solution would have worldwide applications and put Cornwall at the forefront of another breakthrough for the offshore marine industry.”