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Offshore surveys and piracy prevention with High Eye UAV helicopter

Photo: High Eye High-Eye-Airboxer.jpg
Some nine years in the making High Eye’s Airboxer unmanned helicopter system can be used for both commercial and military marine activities.

The vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) UAV is targeted at a niche between conventional electrical drones and much larger unmanned helicopters.

Speaking to Seatrade Maritime News at the Langkawi International Maritime & Aerospace 2023 (LIMA 23) exhibition last week Joost De Ruiter, CEO of High Eye, explained, “The airboxer is designed and built for the maritime domain, it can take off or land on moving vessels. And it has an endurance up to three to four hours, which is much higher than most electric drones which have a maximum endurance of about 40 minutes.”

While having much greater endurance than a multi-copter electric drone, it is much smaller and lighter than most unmanned helicopters that weigh around 150 – 200 kg.

Although only launched in the market for a few months the Airboxer is seeing interest from coastguards, and commercial shipping and offshore. Du Ruiter said they had been approached by oil tanker operators interested to use the UAV helicopter in piracy prevention flying it 12 nautical miles ahead of the vessel providing a live video feed of potential threats allowing the Master to take avoiding action.

The UAV can provide coverage up to a 25km radius from the vessel and flies at a height of 800 – 1,000 metres meaning it cannot be seen or heard.

With a maximum weight of 32kg the Airboxer does not require special storage space on a vessel and can be easily carried onto a table for maintenance for example.

De Ruiter is familiar with the commercial shipping industry, a sector he has worked in the past, and is a shareholder and non-executive director in Bermuda International Shipping which operates containers services the US East Coast and Bermuda.

In the offshore wind sector De Ruiter said High Eye had been approached by a company to utilise the UAV for the inspection of offshore wind turbines. The craft would be able to hover in front of the wind turbine and use cameras and software to follow the blades. Operating from an offshore island and platform the Airboxer would he said that compared to it taking two-days to inspect one turbine manually they could do several inspections in one day. It would also be much safer than a manual inspection.

High Eye is already seeing its first orders for the Airboxer with an American organisation that plans to use it for ocean research and a drone centre at Aalborg University in Denmark.