DARE to unlock innovation
The Digital, Autonomous
and Robotics Engineering (DARE) Centre at the Offshore Renewable Energy
(ORE) Catapult’s testing facility in Blyth has been opened today (Thursday)
by Minister for Energy Security and Net Zero, the Rt Hon. Graham Stuart
The £3m state-of-the-art
DARE Centre is the first of its kind in the UK. It will provide a unique
opportunity for developers, researchers and wider industry to test, demonstrate
and commercialise innovative digital and robotic products and services
for the offshore renewable energy market.
As offshore wind in
the UK gets ready to triple capacity over the next decade, the adoption
of robotics and autonomous systems is vital to achieving this rapid expansion
and reaching Net Zero. These technologies play an increasingly important
role in the offshore renewable energy sector, and the UK is primed to establish
a world-leading supply chain linked to their future development.
Graham Stuart, Minister
of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, said: “I’m delighted to open
the UK’s national robotics centre for offshore wind. Drones, robots and
underwater vehicles can reinforce the UK’s position as the world leader
in offshore wind, make us even more competitive, and keep turbines turning
in even the most hazardous of conditions.
“The robotics centre
will increase the safety and productivity of our highly skilled offshore
wind technicians, lower costs, and contribute both to lower consumer bills
and the nation’s energy security.”
Technology tested at
the DARE Centre will support the expansion of the offshore wind market
and turbocharge the success of services and digital infrastructure surrounding
Andrew Jamieson, Chief
Executive at ORE Catapult, said: “The DARE Centre is a fantastic facility
that will help the UK stay at the forefront of innovation in robotics,
AI and digital solutions to support the growth of offshore renewables.
“The UK has a global
reputation for its sub-ocean engineering expertise and ingenuity. The DARE
Centre will propel UK businesses and this capability into the fast-expanding
offshore wind space.
“Innovation we can
unlock here will allow those at the cutting edge of offshore wind development
to work faster and safer, optimise specialist skills, improve reliability,
and reduce the carbon footprint of the next generation of offshore wind
The DARE Centre includes
a robotics assembly bay, an airborne robotics test zone, three dry docks
with 20,000m3 capacity and test control rooms linked to the docks via a
live environment monitoring system. The centre is the latest part of ORE
Catapult’s National Renewable Energy Centre in Blyth, which offers a wide
range of test and validation facilities, including market-leading wind
turbine testing and an offshore demonstration zone.
Enshore Subsea, BeeX,
and Aspira Aerial Applications have already signed up to test their products
at the new DARE Centre.
Jonathan Fenning, Managing
Director at Aspira Aerial Applications, said: “The DARE Centre will be
pivotal in supporting multiple stages of our Innovate UK project to develop
spray application using a bespoke drone to improve the operating efficacy
of wind turbine technology. We can provide fast, efficient and cost-effective
solutions to achieve an increase in performance for the industry, but we
needed to test and evidence our developments. To do this we needed to perform
real world testing – something that is incredibly challenging for a drone
of our size and complexity, but the centre was ideal.
Looking to the future,
our technology can be used to apply other intelligent coatings such as
environmentally sensitive de-icers, or coatings to assist with fatigue/crack
inspections. We very much intend to maintain our partnership with the DARE
team as we move forward.”
Aspira is developing
a specialist coating, sprayed onto a wind turbine blade by drone to remove
salt build up and detritus, with the aim of improving turbine power output
and minimising downtime.
The DARE Centre has
been funded through UK Government’s Getting Building Fund, managed in
the region by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP),
and Innovate UK.
Helen Golightly OBE,
Chief Executive of the North East LEP, said: “ With Dogger Bank Wind Farm
set to become the world’s largest offshore wind farm, the North East is
well placed to seize new opportunities through the R&D and testing
facilities on the River Blyth, as well as the growing base of manufacturing
and logistics operations in the secto