Crown Estates, one of the Queen's property funds, has awarded a large contract to Whitehaven-based HiDef Aerial Surveying to study sites earmarked for off-shore wind farms.
HiDef will catalogue bird and sea mammal activity across 38,000 square kilometres of Crown Estate-owned sea and continental shelf. Its cameras operate at five times the resolution of high definition television cameras and, when fixed to aircraft, can record every aspect of marine wildlife, going as far as gender and size, from 2,000 ft above.
Crown Estates leases areas of sea-bed to energy companies off Barrow and Rhyl for wind farms and has further plans for new generators off the North West and North Wales coasts.
HiDef developed its techniques in collaboration with Wildcat Flying, which supplied the BBC series Planet Earth. HiDef will 20 new jobs immediately to fulfil this new work but expects the number to increase to 70 over the coming two years. The business is already looking at further expansion after receiving enquiries for environmental impact surveys from businesses in the United States, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Germany and Belgium. It is also actively looking at opportunities in China, after the country recently announced plans to build some of the world's largest off-shore windfarms.
Mark Robinson, business manager at HiDef Aerial Surveying, said: "The expansion of the renewable energy market offers HiDef many commercial opportunities. To date our primary focus has been on the UK market to ensure we deliver on time and meet critical market demands, but our sights are now firmly focused on how this unique service can help tackle the burgeoning global markets."