Fully autonomous robots that are able to inspect damaged wind farms have been developed by Scots scientists. Unlike most drones, they don't require a human operator and could end the need for technicians to abseil down turbines to carry out repairs. The multi-million pound project is showing how the bots can walk, dive, fly and even think for themselves. They're being developed by Orca - the Offshore Robotics for Certification of Assets hub. The hub bills itself as the largest academic centre of its kind in the world and is led from Heriot-Watt and Edinburgh universities through its Centre for Robotics.
Joe Biden's administration has approved the construction of the US's first large-scale offshore windfarm, with 84 turbines to be erected off the coast of Massachusetts. The approval of the project, which will generate about 800 megawatts of energy, enough to power around 400,000 homes and businesses, is a boost to Biden's agenda of ramping up renewable energy production across the US in order to confront the climate crisis. The US has lagged behind other countries in offshore wind, despite its lengthy coastlines, but the Biden administration said the new Vineyard Wind project will be the first of many as it aims to generate 30 gigawatts of energy from offshore wind by 2030. Two other offshore proposals, located in New York, are also now under review. "A clean energy future is within our grasp in the United States," said Deb Haaland, secretary of the interior.
Jon Gluyas, Ørsted/Ikon chair in geoenergy, carbon capture and storage at Durham University, adds that the real question is whether it is cost-effective to set up such equipment at scale. Proponents, unsurprisingly, argue it is - but with energy systems the proof is only ever in the pudding. Ultimately, Prof Gluyas says a mix of different technologies and approaches will be needed for countries like the UK to be carbon neutral.
Google owner Alphabet's subsidiary research company, X, has shut down its project aimed at building a solar-powered drone intended to bring internet access to remote areas. The project, which stemmed from an acquisition Google made in April 2014 of New Mexico-based Titan Aerospace, was deemed by X to be less promising than a competing attempt to use lightweight weather balloons for the same purpose. "The team from Titan was brought into X in late-2015. We ended our exploration of high-altitude UAVs for internet access shortly after," an X spokesperson said. "By comparison, at this stage the economics and technical feasibility of Project Loon [its high-altitude balloon project] present a much more promising way to connect rural and remote parts of the world.