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60 Seconds with Mick Elmslie, XOCEAN Australia

Irish marine robotics company XOCEAN uses Uncrewed Surface Vessels (USVs) to collect data from the ocean, ranging from mapping the seabed to inspecting subsea structures and monitoring the environment for offshore windfarm development.

With the marine environment being a key driver of the global economy and sustaining 40 percent of humans that live within 100km of the coast and nearly a million known species, data is required to ensure both responsible use and protection of this essential resource. This sustainable use should include collecting the required data in an ocean-friendly low impact way, with XOCEAN becoming a leader in this area since becoming commercially operational in 2019. With 60,000 operational hours, over 150 projects completed to date, and the displacement of 22,000 tons of carbon emissions in the past year alone, XOCEAN is championing the growth of the green ocean economy by collecting data in a new and more sustainable way.

We talk to Mick Elmslie, Business Development Manager at XOCEAN about the company’s current projects and plans for Australia.


XOCEAN XO-450 performing survey operations on Greater Gabbard Offshore Wind Farm


How did it all begin?

XOCEAN was founded by our CEO James Ives in early 2017. Since then, we have grown to over 180 people worldwide, with offices in Ireland, UK, the US, Canada, Norway and most recently Australia. Collectively, the team has decades of experience in technology development and operational delivery in a marine environment. At XOCEAN our vision is to transform ocean data collection, supporting the sustainable and economic growth of our most precious resource – our oceans. The identification of optimal locations for renewable energy infrastructure, creation of navigational products to support international shipping, maintenance of subsea assets, environmental research, and numerous other activities related to our oceans all rely on the collection of data.


XOCEAN XO-450 performing survey operations on the Hornsea One Offshore Wind Farm


What is your role at XOCEAN?

In my role as Business Development Manager at XOCEAN I am responsible for identifying key business opportunities in Australia and Asia, creating and nurturing client relationships that will drive business performance. Before joining XOCEAN, I have held senior management roles for several survey contractors, my career to date has provided me with over 20 years’ experience in the offshore survey industry.


What types of offshore projects use your USVs?

Over the past year we have successfully delivered surveys across Europe, North America and Asia. This includes over 50 Offshore Wind missions for new and existing clients including leading offshore wind developers such as Ørsted, SSE Renewables, Equinor, Vattenfall, RWE and bp. An offshore wind farm requires vast amounts of data throughout its 40-year lifespan, from detailed surveys during the development and construction phases through to routine integrity inspections during 30+ years of operation and final surveys during decommissioning.


Fleet of XO-450’s mobilising for survey operations


How do USVs differ from traditional marine survey methods?

Ocean data has traditionally been acquired using large, crewed vessels, which emit substantial amounts of carbon from the consumption of thousands, or even tens of thousands, of litres of fuel per day. These larger vessels can also pose a threat to marine mammals through collision. XOCEAN’s USVs offer significant benefits including safety with operators remaining onshore, efficiency with 24/7 operations and environmental with ultra-low emissions which together leads to significant economic savings.

XOCEAN’s XO-450 USV is the size of an average car with renewable hybrid power and consumes very small volumes of fuel. The resultant carbon emissions are minimal (~0.1% of a conventional vessel) and reduced to the point that they are easily offset for fully carbon neutral operations. This is achieved without compromising power or payload capacity, or data accuracy requirements. Speeds of ~3 knots and data collection operations in challenging weather conditions (Force 6+ on the Beaufort Scale) can be consistently achieved throughout 24/7 operations. The environmentally low impact approach can address even the most stringent data collection specifications defined by energy developers and operators, Hydrographic Offices, and others for seabed object detection, point density, sub bottom penetration and related requirements.


Example of recent Offshore Wind survey campaign


What opportunities do you see in offshore wind generation in Australia?

Offshore wind will be a vital part of Australia’s clean energy transition. With the planned development and construction of multiple offshore wind farms in Australia, developers in the region will require high quality data to support each phase of these projects. And once operational, these wind farms will have a need for routine integrity inspections throughout their lifespan. Comprehensive, reliable data will enable these companies to make informed decisions, manage their operations responsibly, and carry out work with minimal impact to the environment. XOCEAN can help to champion the growth of the green ocean economy in Australia by collecting data in a more efficient, safer and sustainable way.


You can learn more about XOCEAN by visiting, emailing or follow us on our social media channels on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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