A proliferation of large wind farms in recent years has posed a new challenge to both air traffic control and the renewable energy industry. The rotating blades of wind turbines can appear as false aircraft returns on air traffic and other radars. This clutter can lead to radars becoming de-sensitized in the area of the wind farms, resulting in genuine aircraft tracks being all too easily lost. This phenomenon has already prevented or delayed the establishment of new wind farms due to objections from aviation authorities.
Bond Aviation Services began flying a Eurocopter EC135T2+ and crew to maintain wind farms within the Greater Gabbard field off England’s Suffolk coast early last month.
Aveillant, a spin-off company from France-based technology engineering specialist Altran, is developing a new radar designed to distinguish between aircraft and the rotating blades of wind turbines, eliminating the potential confusion wind farms could cause in ATC and allowing wind farms to be built closer to airports.
The Helitech show, to be held from September 27 to 29 in Duxford, UK, is planning a conference program. Topics covered include offshore wind farm servicing, environmental research and development, safety and police operations.
Supporting the burgeoning development of wind farms is the next big growth opportunity in the offshore helicopter transportation market, according to Eurocopter UK managing director Markus Steinke. He estimates that by 2020 there will be demand for at least 20 helicopters to be flying to and from offshore wind turbines in the UK sector of the North Sea alone.
UK-based Bond Air Services has ordered a Eurocopter EC 135 that will be used for maintenance missions at the Greater Gabbard offshore wind farm. Starting late this year, the light twin will perform operations such as delivery of personnel and equipment by winch.
Aviation and the environment often appear to be in conflict, sometimes in unpredictable ways. One such has led BAE Systems into a collaboration with the UK government and the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) on a research project that aims to eliminate the interference that the rotating blades on wind turbine installations can cause to air traffic control radars.