Innovative offshore UAS solutions

Campus for the development and testing of offshore UAS and their operational concepts

The ODCC — Offshore Drone Campus Cuxhaven — is a location for the joint application-oriented development and testing of offshore UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) and their operational concepts. The focus of Fraunhofer IFAM is on questions of maintenance and inspection, as well as monitoring of important maritime structures including regulatory framework conditions.

The goal of the Offshore Drone Campus Cuxhaven (ODCC) is to exploit the large, yet untapped potential for unmanned aerial systems (UAS) in substituting manual work in the maritime service sector (e.g., inspections, surveys, maintenance, repairs, transports). Autonomous long-term inspections by UAS on offshore wind turbines, for example, can achieve significant cost reductions. Another important point is to increase sustainable energy production by using electrically powered aircraft instead of manned helicopters with combustion engines. To achieve this goal, various aspects are being addressed for implementation at the new Fraunhofer IFAM site in Cuxhaven.

Solutions for customized missions

In order to meet the individual requirements, it is important to configure the UAS depending on the mission and investigate the various options for energy supply. Here, the focus is on comparing battery systems, combustion engines (fuel hybrid propulsion) and fuel cells (hydrogen hybrid propulsion).

In the field of components, fault-tolerant drive systems have to enable safe maneuvering due to the demanding offshore conditions. Functioning material protection concepts are essential to ensure that electrical and structural components can withstand the constant salt load, high humidity and UV exposure. The compatibility of the end effectors and sensor systems with the offshore UAS is also being researched.

For the safety-based approach to commercial application of offshore UAS, continuous flight monitoring and guaranteed flight control is of paramount importance. This includes solutions for collision avoidance systems, redundant communication and control units, navigation along a structure under variable environmental conditions and landing on (automated) floating platforms.

Cuxhaven is ideal location for research

The campus in Cuxhaven, the center of the German offshore industry, bundles expertise of industry and research institutions “under one roof”. In addition to flight test, office, and workshop space for electrical engineering work for example, a 3D printer is also available to implement rapid prototype production, including end effectors.

Using drones to protect wind turbines against icing

Icing is a major problem for the proper functioning of wind turbines. If rotor blades ice up, for example, this leads to massive yield losses as well as causing wear and tear and endangering people in the vicinity of the turbines. The TURBO project researches the application of temporary anti-icing protection using drones. The goal is to effectively use drones for inspection, maintenance and repair work with little effort. In addition to this specific application, the project lays the foundation for mobile coating equipment in other applications for difficult-to-access areas. The work at Fraunhofer IFAM focuses on the interactions of drone flight (e.g., stability, positional accuracy, rotor downwind), robust application technology (e.g., weight, mechanism) and material properties (e.g., environmental compatibility, viscosity, anti-icing function).


Funded by Federal Ministry for Economical Affairs and Climate Action:Project number: 21718 N, Application number: N06535/20