Responding to the recommendation in Germany for offshore wind turbines to carry sonar transponders to warn submarines of the obstacles they face when moving through wind farms, the German company, Thales instruments, has launched what it describes as a “lighthouse” for submarines.
Offshore wind parks present a potential underwater obstacle for submarines. Due to this, the German Maritime and Hydrographic Agency (BSH) has included the requirement for sonar transponders in its approval documents. It became evident during the construction and implementation of the first offshore wind turbines and other offshore structures that there was no transponder on the market that met the German Armed Forces requirements regarding the emergency navigation of submarines.
After an approximately three years of research, development and testing phase, Thales announced this month the market entry of its new product, the sonar transponder THALES WISO ST-01, which provides acoustic identification of artificial underwater hazards.
The sonar transponder THALES WISO ST-01 is activated when it receives a precisely defined acoustic signal from a submarine. It then reacts by immediately sending an acoustic warning signal, which in an emergency would help to prevent a collision. While developing this product, special attention was paid to keeping the effects on marine mammals to a minimum in the event of emergency navigation system failure.
The THALES WISO ST-01 was assessed by the German Armed Forces Technical Centre for Ships and Naval Weapons, Maritime Technology and Research (WTD 71). The practical suitability of the THALES sonar transponder was tested during the research project "Research on Sonar Transponders for Offshore Wind Parks and the Technical Integration in a Total Concept".
This project was funded by the Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation and Reactor Safety and guided by the Jülich project management organization. The scientific research partners responsible for investigating the technical and ecological aspects of the project formed a cooperation including the Institute for Statics and Dynamics (ISD) in Hanover, the Institute for Technical and Applied Physics GmbH (itap), the German Wind Energy Institute GmbH (DEWI) as well as the company BioConsult SH.
Today, the BSH requires for project approval that project planners include specific plans for the installation and operation of sonar transponders. The German Armed Forces (Military District Administrative Office North) determine the exact number and position of the mandatory sonar transponders and transducers.
In the past 14 years, the Oldenburg company, Thales instruments GmbH, has made a name for itself with its innovative products and assessment services in the wind energy industry. Since the beginning of the offshore boom seven years ago, Thales has focused on offering solutions for the unique technical demands associated with the implementation of offshore wind energy parks.