Unmanned aerial vehicles may improve wind-farm deployment

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) designed to gather offshore turbulence data could optimise the deployment of wind-turbine farms.

A team from Clarkson University’s Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering Department is now readying the Research Aerial Vehicle for Experimental Needs (RAVEN), which was built with $700,000 (£443,000) funding from the US Department of Energy and will first be deployed around Lake Erie.

The team will map offshore wind and turbulence fields and develop best practices for the integration and operation of different instrumentation — including lidar technologies, meteorological towers, UAV measurements, and satellite-derived products.

The RAVEN UAV will acquire horizontal and vertical wind and turbulence profiles at a low altitude. The three-dimensional view of wind characteristics obtained from this project will provide a greater understanding of the variability of wind and turbulence in offshore and coastal areas at heights, scales and precision relevant to wind energy projects.

The data obtained from this study will be used to design wind turbines and wind farms, and to optimise energy capture and reduce the cost of electricity. 

‘The consortium of public and private partners is proposing a strategy for lowering the cost and improving the accuracy of offshore wind energy assessments using a range of measurement technologies, including optical remote sensing, satellite imagery, and our UAV,’ said Prof Pier Marzocca of Clarkson.

‘We expect to develop techniques that will become standard for assessing wind resources prior to developing new offshore wind farms.’