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Crewless boats are mapping the ocean thanks to XOCEAN - an Irish startup

[Sept 6, 2021: Adnan Durakovic]

Two XOCEAN, uncrewed, vessels remotely controlled from shore. (CREDIT: SSE Renewables)

Two uncrewed vessels remotely controlled from shore have travelled up to 40 kilometres offshore into the North Sea to undertake survey work for Berwick Bank and Marr Bank Offshore Wind Developments, owned by SSE Renewables.

The XO-450 Uncrewed Surface Vessels (USVs), owned and operated by XOCEAN, performed multiple nearshore and offshore cable route surveys in water depths ranging from zero to 60 metres earlier this month.

Onshore support was provided by local personnel from Marine Quest.

The surveys allowed the project team to map a previously unknown rock ridge, located on the seabed and identify an alternative path for export cables.


Identifying this alternative route early has ensured that there is no requirement for potentially intrusive measures on the rock ridge, such as trenching, providing a much more environmentally friendly outcome for the project and local habitat.

In addition, XOCEAN’s USVs provide a reliable, sustainable platform for ocean data collection, emitting 1,000 times less carbon than traditional survey vessels, SSE said

XOCEAN vessels complete this logistically challenging piece of survey work. (CREDIT: XOCEAN)

Louise Davis, Consents Team Manager for Berwick Bank Wind Farm, said: ”SSE Renewables are delighted to have worked alongside XOCEAN to complete this logistically challenging piece of survey work. These smaller, nimbler vessels have allowed the Berwick Bank project team to identify possible options for our export cable corridors, whilst avoiding damage to the local sea environment. We are especially delighted to be using innovative technology with a much-reduced carbon footprint.”

The proposed Berwick Bank and Marr Bank wind farms would be located in the outer Firth of Forth, over 49 kilometres and 40 kilometres, respectively, from the East Lothian coast.


The projects have different timescales, with scoping for Berwick Bank submitted in August 2020 and virtual exhibitions held in November 2020, and Marr Bank at an earlier stage.

The Berwick Bank project is expected to be 2.3 GW and comprise up to 242 offshore wind turbines. It would be capable of generating enough renewable energy to power 3.5 million homes annually, more than all the homes in Scotland, and reduce carbon emissions by four million tonnes each year. Marr Bank is projected to be 1.85GW.


Throughout the survey, the data collected was monitored from shore in real-time by experts located in the UK, to validate data collection before the vessel departed the site.

This demonstrates the highly flexible and collaborative nature of this technology, enabling industry experts to have direct access to real time data, from any location, SSE said.


In addition to its environmental credentials, XOCEAN’s USVs offer significant safety benefits with operators remaining onshore and efficiency with 24/7 operations which together leads to significant economic savings.

James Ives, CEO of XOCEAN, said: ”Our USV platform has demonstrated itself to be a safe, reliable and low carbon solution for the collection of ocean data. We are delighted to be working with SSE Renewables on this project.”

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