Exciting new project by Cranfield University and EDF

A drone research project run by EDF scientists, which could save the company millions in lost generation, has won Government support.

For many years coastal nuclear power stations all around the world have been impacted by jellyfish blooms and free-floating seaweed clogging their cooling water intake systems, resulting in lost generation which can run to tens of millions of pounds. 

Since 2015 the EDF R&D UK Centre has been investigating solutions for this problem, including an early warning system using drones. This month the project, which is being run with Cranfield University, and funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), has been bolstered by support from the UK Government’s Pathfinder programme.

Angus Bloomfield, Marine Biologist in the Natural Hazards team, said: “Any industry on the coast which uses seawater can find its operations complicated when seaweed or jellyfish blooms impact protective systems. They can damage machinery and even stop power generation, which could threaten stability of the electricity grid. An early warning system involving drones could allow industries in marine environments to act early and avoid the most dramatic effects these events can bring.”

The work will establish the feasibility of Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations and use drones for an early warning system to detect the incoming hazards. The plan is to run a trial close to an EDF nuclear power station later this year.

Angus added: “Jellyfish are highly adaptable and responsive so this problem is unlikely to decline any time soon, in fact there are many reasons why it could get worse. Using drones in this way is one of several technologies we are considering to address this problem, but it currently appears very promising – and clearly Government agrees. If it works once it could save the company millions of pounds, but there’s a large international market for such a solution that is equally suitable for all coastal industry which uses large quantities of seawater.”

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