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Soil Machine Dynamics (SMD) is committed to improving operation and maintenance (O&M) in the offshore wind industry – its pioneering technology is shaping this sector into a safer, more efficient, and more environmentally friendly place. To find out how, Wind Energy Network caught up with Liam Forbes, SMD’s General Manager – Services.

SMD’s Vision

At SMD, our world-class technology helps clients reliably perform complex underwater activities, reducing operational risk and downtime, and in turn, increasing profitability. This is especially important in the offshore wind sector, with the demand for
renewable energy at an all-time high. While windfarms play an integral role in the clean energy transition, they are extremely expensive to build and difficult to maintain.

This sector faces several challenges, such as ensuring the safety of workers and facilitating the development of newer, riskier renewable energy sources like floating offshore wind, where O&M missions take place in deeper waters and harsher conditions. This means efficiency is imperative, and at SMD, we believe our innovative technologies are achieving this in two key ways…

  1. By introducing remote working opportunities, and thus creating safer, more cost-effective working environments
  2. By predicting and preventing equipment malfunctions or breakdowns, and thus reducing operational downtime

Operational Costs

When it comes to the installation and operation of offshore windfarms, funding an on-site team can becostly. Not only that, but workers are operating with considerable health and safety risks and remain offshore for long periods. From an environmental perspective, these offshore operations also depend upon fuel-powered vessels.

By facilitating the transition of offshore operations to onshore sites, we envisage a future where O&M missions are safe, efficient and cost-
effective, with a skilled workforce from across the globe able to offer remote support, around the clock.

SMD Horizon

This can be achieved with SMD Horizon. This cloud-based platform connects onshore to offshore, enabling pilots, co-pilots, supervisors and data analysts to work remotely. Accessible from anywhere in the world through a Remote Pilot Interface, Horizon comprises a self-contained cyber chair with integrated joysticks, touchscreen controls, and a generous 86-inch display. Through
the retrieval of real-time data, it enables users to track missions and view trends 24/7.

By reducing the headcount offshore, Horizon can minimise the cost and carbon footprint of O&M missions. When used alongside our other equipment, this cutting-edge technology offers a seamless solution to a host of subsea challenges.


The SMD Atom EV, for example, has been specifically designed for the offshore renewable sector. Smaller and lighter than anything we have designed before, this compact electric work class ROV is suitable for inspection, repair and maintenance
(IRM) applications, surveys and data gathering.

Built with a new architecture, the Atom EV is significantly more efficient than its hydraulic ROV equivalent, converting more input power into usable thrust. Its electric power source dramatically reduces the chance of an oil spill, thus lowering contamination risks. Therefore, the Atom EV serves as a more cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional hydraulic ROVs.

When coupled with Horizon, the option to pilot this technology remotely amplifies its excellent environmental and financial impacts.

SMD Artemis

Damage to subsea cables poses a common problem for the wind sector. Our underwater cable detector, SMD Artemis, offers an excellent technological solution. SMD Artemis, also offers an excellent technological solution. When mounted to a ROV such as the Atom EV, Artemis uses three-dimensional electromagnetic field technology to detect powered cables from a depth of 10m, and unpowered cables from a depth of 5m.

Artemis’ sensing range enables cable owners to track, locate and assess the potential risk to their assets, enabling the smooth and efficient running of their operations.

SMD Sentio

Finally, we have SMD Sentio, our highly realistic, state-of-the- art training simulator, created in collaboration with Tree C Technology.

Capable of replicating the most complex subsea environments, Sentio offers pilots a unique opportunity to safely trial operations and practice techniques, preventing costly mistakes from taking place during live missions.

With the revolutionary ability to practise on Sentio and execute on Horizon, offshore operations have never had the potential to be so seamlessly conducted.

Prevention is Key

As well as developing cutting-edge technology to help reduce downtime on missions, we are also improving the efficiency of the offshore renewable sector through the prevention of operational failures.

Fundamentally, the achievement of optimum efficiency is dependent on the transition from reactivity to proactivity. By identifying and tackling problems before they occur, we can reduce unnecessary downtime and maximise industry output.

A Bespoke Service

To do this, the sharing of data is essential. When we look at the latest innovations in the automotive industry, for example, we see vehicles alerting their owners to the need for new parts or a change in operation – the world of underwater robotics should be no different.

Through the sharing of live equipment data, our expert engineers can offer bespoke recommendations based on a user’s behaviour and operational requirements. This accurate guidance enables potential problems to be identified, and the relevant adjustments made.

For example, if we are to identify in advance when a customer’s Atom EV needs a component replacement, we can make the necessary preparations to accommodate this, preventing technical faults from interrupting ongoing missions.

Similarly, in being able to assess machine data sets, we can understand usage habits and suggest appropriate adjustments to maximise outputs or avoid potential problems. This holistic approach to subsea missions represents a significant shift for the offshore wind industry, but one which will ultimately prove to be transformative.

Looking Ahead

The wind energy sector never stands still, and neither do we. As we strive towards a carbon-neutral future, it is clear that our technological innovations must keep pace with the forward-thinking ambitions of the industry.

At SMD, our pioneering engineers are committed to developing technology that does just that. We are proud to serve the renewable energy sector, continuously creating new ways to achieve operational excellence.


Read the Wind Energy Network magazine here.