The tide is turning with the use of drones
Researchers in Scotland and Wales are carrying out a trial involving the use of drones to assess potential sites for underwater tidal turbines.
The new method of measuring tidal currents, which is led by scientists from the University of the Highlands & Islands, will use the drones to film the movement of water then apply algorithms to determine its speed.
It is hoped the technique could provide a simple, effective way to identify locations for underwater tidal turbines, which will reduce costs for renewable energy developers and generate opportunities for developing countries.
Current methods for measuring tidal streams rely on using survey vessels or installing seabed sensors, which can be time consuming and expensive.
Dr Benjamin Williamson, a scientist at North Highlands College UHI’s Environmental Research Institute in Thurso, is leading the 12-month project along with colleagues from Swansea University and Bangor University in Wales. The team will run tests in the Pentland Firth in Scotland and the Ramsey Sound in Wales in various weather conditions.
Williamson saids: “Measuring the flow speed and movement of water is vital for developing offshore renewable energy. These measurements are needed to predict the performance and inform the placement of underwater tidal stream turbines or to optimise the moorings and design of floating turbines. However, gathering these measurements is typically high-cost and high-risk.
“Our aerial technique offers a cost-effective way to support environmentally-sustainable development of marine renewable energy. It could be used in remote locations and developing countries where suitable survey vessels may not be available or to support community-based approaches to renewable energy generation. We hope to help address the climate emergency by advancing our ability to generate reliable, clean energy.”