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Helping Falco Drone Technologies get ready for lift off 

Support from Marine-i is enabling Falco Drone Technologies to develop a pioneering new drone which could play a vital role in the inspection and maintenance of floating offshore wind installations. A prototype of their innovative design will commence trials in summer 2021.

Falco Drone Technologies is a new company based in Cornwall and founded by Patrick Maletz MSc, a Mechanical Design Engineer who had been working for Engineered Arts, a Cornish robotics company, for the previous four years. Patrick studied Aerospace, Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering at Swansea University before taking a Masters in Space Engineering at the University of Surrey, where he gained a Distinction.

Patrick Maletz explains:

“Existing drone technology is limited by two crucial factors: flight times and the ability to fly in adverse weather. High winds exacerbate this problem further, reducing flight times and grounding most drones in wind speeds over 25 mph - a particularly bad problem for exposed offshore installations. Our innovative solution is designed to address these issues.

“Our technology allows for drastically improved flight performance of multirotor drones by mimicking bird flight. The technology allows drones to efficiently harness local wind energy to supplement lift whilst being able to fly long distances with the efficiencies of a plane, perfectly blending the benefits of fixed wing and multirotor aircraft. 

“The typical flight time for a conventional battery powered drone is at most one hour and often much less. We believe that we can increase this up to six hours.”

To accelerate development, the company engaged with the Marine-i project.  Neil Farrington, Regional Innovation Manager at Marine-i partner, the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult, says:

“There are two main elements to the Marine-i support package. ORE Catapult is providing expert analysis of the offshore energy surveying and O&M tasks that could be delivered by this new technology. In summer 2021, we will move to the crucial stage, which will be launch and recovery trials at our Levenmouth Demonstration Turbine off the Fife coast.”

Professor Lars Johanning, Programme Director for Marine-i, says:

“To seize the fast growing opportunities in offshore renewables including floating wind, Marine-i is working with innovative businesses like Falco Drone Technologies,  which have the talent to make these kinds of creative leaps in technology and design. Marine-i is providing world class RD&I support to help accelerate commercialisation. If successful, this ground-breaking solution would have worldwide applications and put Cornwall at the forefront of another breakthrough for the offshore marine industry.”

Patrick Maletz adds:

“For a new business like ours, having access to the world-class research support that is available through Marine-i has been a huge boost. It is helping us move our new technology towards commercialisation at a much faster pace than would otherwise be possible.”

[Photo: A drone’s eye view of the Levenmouth Demonstration Turbine - Photo credit: ORE Catapult].