The global demand for renewable energy is at an all time high, and with the expansion of offshore wind farms into floating wind, comes the need to improve upon the installation, operation and maintenance (O&M) of these harder to reach turbines.
When it comes to designing and engineering subsea technology, Soil Machine Dynamics (SMD) is a world-leader. Recently, SMD has invested heavily in research and development (R&D) and new technologies, and has launched ‘SMD Innovation’, a specialist division dedicated to open thinking, collaboration and pioneering technology.
Innovation and Business Development Director Mark Collins, is here to explain more…
Tell us about SMD Innovation, what inspired the creation of this division?
“Our Chair, Mike Jones, put it best when he said that “when you approach the problem differently, you will always find a better way.” This stems from our founder Dr Alan Reece’s ambitious spirit, which is encouraged and nurtured in all of our people, and sits at the core of SMD Innovation.
“Alan was a true pioneer; back in 1971, he and his team redesigned an agricultural plough for subsea use. This was an engineering triumph that sparked a transformative period for the marine and telecoms industries and without this, the world would be a very different place.
“A lot of people, when they think of SMD, most likely associate us with the heavy machinery of our past, and that’s amazing – we do engineer and manufacture a lot of vehicles, but perhaps what we are less known for is our technology credentials. This is where SMD Innovation comes in.
“This new division focuses on both the creation and delivery of new technologies, and the maintenance of our existing ones. We aim to overcome the biggest challenges facing the subsea industry – from environmental to health and safety. As we look forward, we continue to find room for improvement, reimagining the existing and striving towards a brighter future.”
What are the latest developments to come out of this new venture?
“Presently, SMD Innovation has given rise to three major developments, all of which will greatly improve the O&M of offshore wind farms, as well as a host of other subsea projects.”
“SMD Horizon is a cloud-based platform that connects onshore operators to offshore vehicles. Retrieving live data, it enables users to track missions, view trends and detect issues early, tackling them before they occur. This piece of technology reduces the need for an expensive and higher-risk offshore team, enabling pilots, co-pilots, supervisors and data analysts to work remotely.
“SMD Horizon proves particularly useful for floating offshore wind farms, where deeper waters and harsher conditions make O&M missions significantly more difficult.
“It can be accessed through a Remote Pilot Interface – a self-contained cyber chair with integrated joysticks, touchscreen controls, and a generous 86 inch display. It also has a web-based interface, which ensures that even without the cyber chair, operators can view the latest data on the go, through a standard internet browser. This unique feature allows all key stakeholders to effortlessly access the same information, at the same time.”
“Our modular robotics range of electric vehicles (EVs) are smaller and lighter than anything we have designed before. Offering greater flexibility and reliability, these high performance vehicles consume less energy and dramatically reduce contamination risks, improving the economic and environmental impact of underwater operations.
“Whilst our work-class Quantum EV is perfect for heavy duty construction, our survey-class Atom EV is well placed for the renewable sector. Atom is ideal for conducting surveys and completing light and medium duty installation and O&M tasks on subsea infrastructure.
“Artemis is the ultimate cable tracking solution, locating and assessing subsea cables and pipelines from a distance of up to 10 metres when the cable is live or toned, and up to 5 metres when the cable has no power or tone.
Using 3D electromagnetic technology, Artemis tracks cables laid on the ocean floor as well as those buried beneath seabed. This innovative piece of equipment can provide the exact location and orientation of a cable in real time, with an in-built quality measure to quantify confidence levels in data.
“Artemis is available in three different modes of operation; live, toned and induced. Artemis Passive system is utilised when the cable is energised, whether this be live or toned. Artemis Active system is utilised when the tone needs to be induced, which it does using its own antenna, mounted on the ROV or trencher.
“Currently, damage to subsea cables represents the most common insurance claim on offshore wind farms. As such, Artemis’ ability to detect powered, unpowered and faulty cables represents a huge step forward for the industry.
“Artemis is an unrivalled hunter, significantly outperforming the next best solution in terms of depth, orientation and accuracy. I am excited to say that this pioneering solution is now available for purchase or hire, and the protection of high-value power cables remains a top priority for SMD Innovation, with further solutions still to come.”
Looking ahead, what do you envision for SMD Innovation?
“When it comes to engineering, the opportunities truly are limitless.
“In the near future, we will be investing in a whole host of new talent, from promising graduates to highly skilled industry experts. Generations of passionate engineers have contributed to the global success of SMD, so we understand that the expansion of our knowledge is intrinsically linked to the growth of our team.
“By continuing to prioritise open-thinking and collaboration, SMD Innovation will make huge advances for the underwater industry, developing new technology and engineering a better future for us all.”
Read the Wind Energy Network magazine here.