P.2.1.1 Offshore ornithological and mammal surveying vessels and craft


Bird and marine mammal survey vessels and aircraft provide a platform for surveying to take place.

Who supplies them

Vessels: Enviro-serve, Fugro and Gardline.

Aircraft: APEM, Green Rebel and HiDef Surveying.

Key facts

Traditional visual methods for surveying marine mammals are often undertaken concurrently with offshore ornithology surveys, offering a cost saving. For the floating offshore wind sector, unfavourable weather and sea conditions have to be considered in the planning of surveys to ensure that the data collected is robust.

Multiple crews are used, including experienced and qualified surveyors, who rotate in shifts in order to avoid fatigue and maintain visual acuity. Traditional visual boat-based surveys can be supplemented with a towed hydrophone and acoustic pods deployed on the sea bed to undertake passive acoustic monitoring of marine mammals.

Whilst traditional visual aerial surveys can be used to record marine mammals, these are not suitable to record marine birds as they fly at relatively low altitudes and can cause disturbance (and therefore the data collected are not representative of baseline conditions). Instead, digital aerial survey aircraft can be used which fly at higher altitudes, recording both birds and marine mammals.

These survey aircraft have a range of remote sensing instruments on board such as high-resolution digital cameras, lidar, video imaging and imaging spectrometers. Twin-engine planes, with long-range fuel tanks and autopilot capabilities allow for extensive surveying offshore without the need for on-board surveyors.

There is great potential for the increased use of autonomous vessels with remote sensing instruments and artificial intelligence to analyse data, to reduce cost and carry out more extensive offshore surveys.

What’s in it

Guide to a Floating Offshore Wind Farm