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1718801400000 | Press Release

EnBW und DLR organize drone competition for offshore wind farm use

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EnBW/Photographer Rolz Otzipka

Offshore wind farms are playing a pivotal role in the energy transition. However, they are often located around 100 kilometers off the coast. The long journeys by ship or helicopter make maintaining and repairing wind turbines a challenge. Unmanned aerial vehicles or drones could be used in the future to transport tools, materials and eventually also personnel to the wind farm more quickly and cost-effectively. EnBW Energie Baden-Württemberg AG and the German Aerospace Center (DLR) are organizing a two-day “Offshore Drone Challenge” at DLR’s National Experimental Test Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems in Cochstedt. In this competition, international drone companies will go head-to-head with one another over a course on 19 and 20 June 2024. The flight tasks are modeled on the transportation of materials in the offshore wind energy sector, from the launch of the drone to the placement of the load on the wind turbine. ADLC as the operator of Phoenix Wings, Flowcopter, Stromkind and Solectric as the operator of DJI will present their drone technologies.

“Unmanned flight is a key technology for the aviation of the future, just as wind energy is essential to the energy transition. DLR is engaged in extensive research activities in both fields. It is important to us to continuously take an intensive approach to sharing knowledge with the authorities, the Federal Agency for Technical Relief and the German Armed Forces, for example, as well as cooperate with industry players and promote technology transfer to the business world,” stressed Anke Kaysser-Pyzalla, Chair of the DLR Executive Board, “which is why I am especially pleased to be involved in the ‘Offshore Drone Challenge’ organized jointly by EnBW and DLR here at the DLR site in Cochstedt. Together with the participating start-ups from the drone economy, we are helping to generate new ideas for the maintenance and operation of wind turbines on the high seas. It is further evidence of how DLR’s National Experimental Test Center in Cochstedt bolsters the global pioneering role played by Germany and Europe in developing new aviation technologies for unmanned flight.”

Peter Heydecker, Board Member for Sustainable Generation Infrastructure: “EnBW relies on innovative technologies to operate its offshore wind farms. “As an experienced operator of offshore wind farms, we wish to play our part in turning this new logistics approach into a standard service worldwide. In the future, transport drones will play a key role in reducing the operating costs of offshore wind farms, increasing safety and guaranteeing the reliability of energy generation from offshore wind turbines.”

Daniela Kluckert, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport: “With remote-controlled drones and unmanned, autonomous aviation systems, a new age of flight is dawning. Whether transporting heavy loads or rescuing people in emergency situations, the use of unmanned aerial vehicles optimizes, revolutionizes and increases the precision of operations in numerous areas, including surveillance, transport and disaster management. Here at the Federal Ministry, we want to further consolidate the huge growth potential in the unmanned aviation sector and support the development of the high-tech sector.”

Dr. Jürgen Ude, State Secretary for Structural Change and Major Industrial Projects in the State of Saxony-Anhalt: “We are delighted and proud to have this facility in Saxony-Anhalt, which was newly built in 2021. Cochstedt is now not only the hub of a future technology in Saxony-Anhalt – the research airport has also evolved into an attractive location for companies in the aviation or logistics industry that want to develop or use flight systems themselves.”

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Focus on operations and maintenance logistics for offshore wind farms

EnBW/Photographer Rolz Otzipka

The Offshore Drone Challenge on 19 and 20 June 2024 in Cochstedt is part of the “Upcoming Drones Wind Farm” joint project run by DLR and EnBW. Small drones are already being used in offshore wind farms. They fly around the rotor blades with thermal imaging cameras and take photos that can reveal any damage. However, the range and load-bearing capacity of small drones are limited. The research project, meanwhile, is examining the future prospects of drones, not least because flight distances of around 100 kilometers out to sea carrying a 200-kilogram load are needed to replace journeys by ship. The companies ADLC, Stromkind and Solectric will showcase their skills in competitive flights on the airport grounds. Flowcopter will be presenting the largest of the drones.

The focus of the flights in the competition is on testing maneuvers that play an important role in the operation and maintenance logistics for offshore wind farms. The various stages include tasks such as picking up, transporting and setting down the load using operations that are as automated as possible, communicating with the wind farm to prepare for landing on a wind turbine and navigating a flight beyond the visual line of sight, during which the drone must fly completely automatically.

In June 2024, a geozone at the National Experimental Test Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems will be used for the first time to trial the use of drones in offshore wind farms. The establishment of this special geographical area makes it possible to fly drones with a takeoff mass of up to 800 kilograms beyond the direct field of view at Cochstedt Airport.

The “Upcoming Drones Wind Farm” project is being funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK).

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An overview of DLR
DLR is the Federal Republic of Germany's research centre for aeronautics and space. We conduct research and development work in the fields of aviation, space travel, energy, transport, security and digitalization. The German Space Agency at DLR plans and implements the national space programme on behalf of the federal government. Two DLR project management agencies oversee funding programs and support knowledge transfer. Mobility, technology and the climate are changing worldwide. DLR draws on the expertise of its 54 institutes and facilities to come up with solutions in response to the associated challenges. Our 10,000 employees share a mission – to explore Earth and space. We develop technologies for a sustainable future and use technology transfer to help to consolidate Germany’s position as prime a location for knowledge and business.

About EnBW Energie Baden-Württemberg AG
With a workforce of over 28,000 employees, EnBW is one of the largest energy supply companies in Germany and Europe. It supplies electricity, gas and water together with infrastructure and energy-related products and services to around 5.5 million customers. In the company’s transformation from a traditional energy provider to a sustainable infrastructure group, the expansion of renewable energy sources and of the distribution and transportation grids for electricity and gas are cornerstones of EnBW’s growth strategy and the focus of its investment spending. By 2030, EnBW plans gross investment of 40 billion euros, around 90 percent of which is earmarked for Germany. By the end of 2025, renewables are set to account for more than half of EnBW’s generation portfolio. The aim is to phase out coal by the end of 2028. These are key milestones on the company’s way to achieving climate neutrality by 2035. www.enbw.com

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Press Contacts

Falk Dambowsky
Head of Media Relations
German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Linder Höhe
51147 Cologne
Phone: +49 (0)2203 601 3959
Website: www.DLR.de

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