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Offshore logistics drones

A joint research project of EnBW and DLR

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Tools, materials and perhaps even maintenance personnel can be transported quickly and safely by air cab to the wind farm at sea! In future, this will be made possible by "Offshore Logistics Drones" - automated heavy-duty drones that are to be developed for the efficient operation and uncomplicated maintenance of offshore wind farms. Offshore wind farms play a key role in achieving our climate targets and are designed for a service life of over twenty years. The challenge is that they are often located far from the coast. We rely on innovative technologies to optimize the operation and maintenance of these turbines. A key element here is drone technology, which enables us to make logistics processes more flexible and environmentally friendly. With the "Upcoming Drones Windfarm" research project funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, we are aiming to optimize the operation and maintenance processes of offshore wind farms and thus make a contribution to achieving our climate targets.

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About the research project

Drone technology will play an even larger role worldwide, particularly in the area of logistics. Many sectors see real potential for the transportation of people and materials. The EnBW research project will examine whether the use of drones is promising for the offshore wind sector and especially establish which requirements will need to be met.

Logistical challenges associated with ever larger offshore wind farms are expected to be met by automated transport drones in the future to reduce operating costs.

Let´s take off for future

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Technology and investments around Urban Air Mobility are in a steep development curve - we use this commitment for our use case by directly connecting the mental step out to offshore wind farms. We are working on a new business segment for Urban Air Mobility, which will bring in volumes that can be planned in the long term.

Marcus Ihle, EnBW

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Our approach

In the research project, business models are being developed and the efficiency of drone operations analysed. Technologically, the transport drones should be able to transport payloads in the form of tools, consumables for maintenance and spare parts, and later also personnel, to and from their deployment locations in the wind farm. For this application, the project will evaluate suitable configurations for the drone and payload systems and design the interaction between the offshore wind farm and the drone.

Interfaces must be created at both hardware and software level to enable the use of transport drones. Legal framework conditions are also incorporated into these concepts. How will drones and wind farms be certified for this purpose in the future? What international conditions will have to be taken into account for such offshore wind farms in the future? The development and validation of the automation concept and operational aspects of the transport mission will be carried out in a simulated environment, which will be set up as part of the project. The aim hereby is to achieve high efficiency and maximum operational safety.

True to our motto "Knowledge for Tomorrow", we are happy to be challenged by the topic of "Offshore Logistics with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles": We see reimagined aircraft, uncomfortable environmental conditions and regulation, and high autonomy requirements as an opportunity to conceptualise drone technology to enable low-cost green energy.

Sebastian Cain, DLR

Our partners

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  • The German Aerospace Center (DLR) is involved in the research project.

We are also pleased to have associate partners on board:

  • The Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency (BSH) is supervising our project in its role as the licensing authority for wind farms in the German exclusive economic zone.
  • The global full service provider Hellmann Worldwide Logistics is developing a logistic concept for offshore delivery via drones.
  • TenneT, as a leading European transmission system operator, is investigating the use of heavy-duty drones as an addition to its portfolio of transport means for its growing network of offshore transformer platforms and is preparing the concept for their use.

Offshore Drone Challenge

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The Offshore Drone Challenge 2024

Test flights are taking place as part of the research project. We have invited drone manufacturers and service providers to demonstrate their technology for transporting heavy loads. In summer 2024, on 19 and 20 June, EnBW and DLR will therefore hold the Offshore Drone Challenge. The event will be held at the DLR site in Cochstedt, National Experimental Test Center of Unmanned Aircraft Systems .

At the Offshore Drone Challenge 2024, six international drone companies will compete against each other in a multi-stage course. The course covers the use case of material transportation in offshore wind energy, from the start of the drone to the final precise placement of the payload. The companies Flowcopter, HyFly, NEX Aero, Solectric, Stromkind and Unmanned Helicopters were selected and will present their solutions. The flight demonstrations are embedded in a programme with panel discussions, keynote speeches, and evening get-togethers. The flight demonstrations are judged by a high-ranking jury – a panel of experts from business and science – and are embedded in a programme with panel discussions, keynote speeches and evening get-togethers.

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Timeline Offshore Logistic Drones

The Timeline

Your contact

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Vincenz Schneider
Project Lead
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Jonas Janke
Work Package Manager
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Daniel Maier-Gerber
Vertical Infrastructure Affairs
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Marcus Ihle
Project External Affairs
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The participants

One course, two flight days and numerous flight manoeuvres: the Offshore Drone Challenge (ODC) will take place at the National Experimental Test Center of Unmanned Aircraft Systems in Cochstedt, Saxony-Anhalt in Summer 2024. From a total of 13 applications, six drone manufacturers and service providers were awarded an ODC place to demonstrate their technologies for transporting maintenance equipment to offshore wind farms. The selection criteria included the technical data of the aircraft, the completed flight programme and the suitability and strategic orientation in relation to the offshore wind energy use case.

The following companies will present their developments live at the ODC in june 2024:

*In alphabetical order
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  • head office: Scotland
  • Flowcopter was born out of the need for robust VTOL platforms with high payloads and long endurance for markets that traditionally require helicopters, such as offshore logistics and humanitarian aid. Running on net-zero E100 or synthetic fuels, Flowcopter’s hybrid FC100 platform can carry a payload of 120kg for 200km with the ability to replace helicopters at a fraction of the cost.
  • Website Flowcopter


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  • head office: Netherlands
  • Our VTOL drone is developed for transportation of urgent goods in challenging environments like cities and offshore conditions. In order to transport high payload weight over long distances the HyFly drone is equipped with a hydrogen fuel cell propulsion system. The unique tandem tilt wing concept enables wind resistant operation in compact areas like rooftops in cities.
  • Website Hydrogen Powered VTOL Drone | HyFly


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  • head office: Germany
  • NEX Aero is a Berlin-based start-up that is developing the world's first H2 eVTOL because the future of aviation is hydrogen-electric. It is thus developing a state-of-the-art cargo aircraft that is optimized in terms of volume, payload and range. It is to be launched on the market by 2025 and offer emission-free logistics.
  • Website NEX Aero

NEX Aero

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  • head office: Germany
  • These days, Solectric GmbH is one of the leading European partners of Da-Jiang Innovations Science and Technology, known as DJI. DJI is globally famous for the development and production of drones used in private and professional aerial photography and videography and is considered the industry leader in the field of drones for both private and commercial use. Since 2016, Solectric GmbH has been specializing in industrial solutions and has since been a highly reliable partner for authorities and companies in the acquisition and consulting of individually adapted drone solutions based on DJI technology. These types of drones are used in the Offshore Drone Challenge.
  • Website Solectric


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  • head office: Austria
  • Unmanned Helicopters is a drone company that is developing a new generation of vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS). Industrially manufactured helicopter drones offer very long flight endurance, high payload capacity and resistance to harsh weather conditions.
  • Website Unmanned Helicopters - Powerful, reliable & flexible drones

Unmanned Helicopters

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Offshore Logistic Drones Challenge 2024 - Tasks

The Tasks

The jury

Ahmet Batmaz

Allianz Commercial, Regional Head Allianz Risk Consulting GER/SUI

Stefanie Bourne

DNV, Director for Renewables and Offshore wind

Dr. Jan Dirks

Advisor at the Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport

Achim Friedl

Aviation Expert for Helicopters and Unmanned Aircraft Systems

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Alexander Köthe

TH Wildau, Professor & CTO von AphaLink Engineering

Tim Strohbach

Fraunhofer IFAM, Group lead for maritime drone applications "Offshore Drone Campus Cuxhaven"

Latest news

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Communication between wind farm system and unmanned helicopter successfully demonstrated at Schwienau onshore wind farm

The unmanned DLR superARTIS helicopter approaches the wind turbine

In October 2023, the unmanned DLR superARTIS small helicopter took off from the EnBW Schwienau II and III wind farms in Lower Saxony/Germany.

The aim was to test the communication between the drone and the wind farm, which had previously been worked out in theory and programmed at DLR and EnBW. The communication interface created enabled the superARTIS to receive data such as wind speed, wind direction, wind turbine orientation and rotor speed and then select its flight route.

During the test, the superARTS first made sure that the rotor of the wind turbine to be approached was stationary. The helicopter then safely approached the wind turbine from the side facing away from the wind until a predetermined distance was reached. If the drone had not received clearance for this, it would have automatically flown into a holding pattern.

The test did not take place at sea, but on land to make the experiments safer and easier to carry out. For a realistic scenario, the researchers attached a payload to the drone. The results can be transferred to offshore installations. The communication between superARTIS and the wind turbine was designed for offshore operation and is being analysed in simulations.

A look back at “Amsterdam Drone Week 2023”

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“Drone industry meets wind energy”. We continued the dialog at Amsterdam Drone Week on Wednesday, 22 March 2023. The Offshore Drone Forum #2 organized by the project partners DLR and EnBW focused on the use case of offshore logistics drones from the perspectives of technical and commercial feasibility, regulatory requirements and potential business models for operations.

The forum brought together the various viewpoints of the offshore wind industry, the drone sector and investors. “Together with our partner the DLR and other speakers, we used the forum to discuss the framework conditions that appear particularly promising for the use of transport drones in offshore wind energy and also saw practical examples,” says the host of the forum, Marcus Ihle. “We were particularly pleased that our event was able to strengthen the network of players. We hope it will also promote innovation and provide a better understanding of the use case.”

Barbara Zuiderwijk

Green Giraffe

Financing and innovations in offshore wind – improving the business case with drones

Florian-Michael Adolf | Volocopter

Trends in Autonomous Flight

Dr. Michael Splett


The drones use case Offshore Wind – we are serious about it

Dr. Falk Götten

Luftfahrt-Bundesamt (Federal Aviation Office of Germany)

Offshore UAS Operations - The Regulatory Perspective

Johann Dauer


Insights into a thrilling new use case: the R&D project for Offshore Logistics Drones

Alexandra Hof

GE Renewables

Two perspectives under one roof: operator and OEM

Dr. Oliver Heinrich

BHO Legal

Legal Implications for Offshore Logistics Drones on EU / National level

Moritz Moroder


Wind energy use cases in concrete evaluation and realisation

Holger Meyer

Hellmann Logistics

Logistics industry delivering to renewable energy assets

Helge Hackbarth

Lufthansa Industry Solutions

Heavy Duty Drones in a new use case – aviation and Safety aspects


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A review of the “EnBW Offshore Drone Forum #1”

As part of WindEnergy Hamburg 2022, EnBW held the “EnBW Offshore Drone Forum,” bringing together experts from the wind energy industry with those from the drone industry for the first time. The “EnBW Offshore Drone Forum” provided an intensively used platform for promoting dialogue between engineers, the business world, scientists and regulators. Together with high-level speakers from the industry, people were given the opportunity to discuss how advanced air mobility technologies can be used to transport people and materials to and from offshore wind farms.

“There were numerous opportunities at the event for people to chat with the EnBW and DLR teams as well as other experts and familiarize themselves with this valuable use case. This opportunity was seized with considerable interest, which makes us very happy,” says EnBW project manager Jonas Janke. “For us, it is about embracing interdisciplinary thinking within a network and creating synergies that will enable us all to take another important step toward innovation and sustainability.”

Manfred Hader

Roland Berger

eVTOL Vehicle for Offshore Wind Applications

Dr. Oliver Heinrich

BHO Legal

Drone Logistics on the Rise for Offshore Wind - why legal embedding is crucial

Steffen Reinert

Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency (BSH)

Regulatory Perspective for offshore Logistics Drones

Dr. Marco Volpengo


How industry standards can be gamechangers - Insights into an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Project with Audi, Airbus and Italdesign

Dr. Michael Splett

"Offshore Logistics Drones" from the O&M Offshore Wind perspective

Herbert Peels

2-B Energy

The impact of drone utilization on wind turbine design and certification

Johann Dauer

German Aerospace Center (DLR)

Flights into operational Offshore Windfarms - today and tomorrow

Dr.-Ing. Susan Wegner

Lufthansa Industry Solutions

Bringing Artificial Intelligence to Life

Thorsten Indra


Traffic in the 3rd dimension: lean remote drone operations by the way of integrated control centers


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Do you have any questions about the research project on offshore logistics drones? You can find the answers here!

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Ships used today generally not only have to be a means of transport, but also a hotel and material store at the same time. The reason for this is the long distance between the work location and the coast. Transfer by ship takes several hours, which is why daily transfer by ship to the wind farm is generally not economical. Engineers are accommodated and fed on the ship during their shift. Accordingly, personnel are also constantly needed to keep the ship running. The ship must also have the right equipment to enable the workers to cross over to the turbines in the wind farm even in heavy seas. This high degree of specialization makes the ships that are used very expensive. Nevertheless, ships currently remain the cheapest alternative in terms of logistics.

Helicopters are already available for transporting material and tools. They can be used very flexibly. Engineers and material can be dropped off directly at the work location – on the nacelle of a wind turbine, for instance. Transfer by helicopter to the wind farm takes a fraction of the time of transfer by ship due to the high speed of travel. The biggest drawback of helicopters is the cost. High fuel consumption and maintenance work are significant cost drivers.

Drones offer advantages in terms of cost and flexibility compared to the logistics options currently used. The high speed of travel means transfers are as fast as those involving helicopters. By switching to transport drones, it would also be possible to service offshore wind farms located a long distance from the coast without the need for accommodation in the wind farm. The anticipated operating costs of drones are lower than those of helicopters because drones are less complex. This has a significant impact on the amount of maintenance work needed for the drones. It is likely that drones will become more and more automated in the future, thereby cutting operating costs. The transport of materials in particular offers considerable potential for automation.

What advantage do drones have over today’s logistics services with special ships and helicopters?

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Many drone manufacturers have set themselves the goal of starting commercial operation of their drones within the next few years. The offshore wind farms must first be upgraded before drones can be used. Since the necessary framework conditions will only be determined in the course of the research project, it is difficult to estimate the timescale. Once the framework conditions have been established, they must be incorporated into the development of a new offshore wind farm. Such developments generally take several years.

When will the drones be ready for service and when can they be used in offshore wind farms?

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It is not sufficient for drones merely to be available for use as transport drones in offshore wind farms. The relevant offshore wind farm must have the right equipment to enable the use of transport drones. Furthermore, the developed drones may require modifications to make them suitable for such use. It is therefore also necessary to familiarize manufacturers with the circumstances of the use case involving offshore wind energy.

Why is the research project being carried out when there are already manufacturers developing heavy-duty drones and air taxis?

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The drone must have a high load-bearing capacity and long range for transport operations between the offshore wind farm and the coast. There are concepts from different manufacturers that promise to meet these criteria. The kind of drone required is not yet available.

What could be an obstacle to the use of drones in the offshore sector? Where do the difficulties lie?

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The European Union Aviation Security Agency mandates high safety standards for drone flights that carry passengers. Drones used for transporting people must undergo certification similar to that used for aircraft.

Almost all of the currently available drone models are equipped with redundant power systems. In the event of a failure in the drone's power system during the flight, the remaining power systems can compensate for the failure. With many drone models, the flight to the planned destination can even be continued in such cases.

Are drone flights safe?

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The drones used for transporting passengers are controlled by on-board pilots. It is conceivable that drones used for transporting materials may be controlled by a remote pilot rather than an on-board pilot.

How are drones controlled? Is there a pilot?

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The aim is to purchase drone flights as a service. The drones will be optimally utilized by also being used for other purposes. Idle time can thus be kept to a minimum, which in turn has a positive impact on operating costs.

Who will operate the drones? Will EnBW become an aviation company?

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Preliminary considerations on economic efficiency were discussed in the run-up to the research project. There is considerable potential for transport drones to be used economically in offshore wind farms. However, the use of transport drones does not make sense in every scenario.

Does the use of drones make economic sense?

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Most currently available drone models are electrically powered. In terms of sustainability, this offers advantages over the currently used logistics options. If the drones run on renewable power, emissions can be reduced when operating the offshore wind farms.

Is the use of drones in offshore wind farms sustainable?