Wave Glider SV3
Liquid Robotics has announced the Wave Glider SV3, what it calls the worldʼs first hybrid wave and solar propelled unmanned ocean robot. These super-smart robots have been revamped with Wi-Fi and cellular communications and are primed to compete in a series of industries, and might eventually create a couple new ones while they’re at it. (Pics)
“The Wave Glider can get data, process it, determine whether it’s interesting, and then just send back the answers,” said Roger Hine, co-founder and chief technology officer, of the Sunnyvale, California-based company. And the robots do all this while communicating with each other via the Iridium network of satellites in orbit around the earth. “They can work in swarms to coordinate missions out in the oceans.”
The Wave Glider SV3 leverages the basic design principle of the Wave Glider SV2 platform, which was introduced in 2009, and has since traveled over 300,000 nautical miles globally, set a world record for longest distance traveled by an autonomous vehicle (land or sea), and has been deployed on hundreds of customer missions ranging from the Arctic to Australia, and from the Canary Islands to Loch Ness, according to the company.
“If you can take a mundane or long-term, repetitive task, and give it to a robot, instead of a person, you save money first off—running a ship can cost $150,000 a day, depending on what they’re outfitted with, and a wave runner might be $2,000 a day,” said Hine. “But you also increase safety by having fewer people in harms way.”
The Gulf of Mexico in the summer is one of the main use areas the company, which has raised$77.1 million in funding from VantagePoint Capital and others, is targeting. And some of the robots are already being used there for tsunami warnings. But there are three main industries in which Hine said the new vehicle will likely be most useful.
First, the SV2 robots have already been so successful with the oil and gas industries that the company launched Liquid Robotics Oil & Gas, “spun off to address the needs of the industry,” a joint venture with Schlumberger, one of the world’s largest oilfield services companies, and with a valuation of over $100 billion, one of Forbes most innovative companies last year.
Then there’s the scientific and research industry, mostly explored by academic institutions like Scripps Institute of Oceanography, NASA, and Cornell, among many others.
And the third main industry using the technology is national security, which Hine wouldn’t go into detail about, other than to say that “maritime domain awareness,” or improving the awareness of what is going on in the sea—both on our own shores and further away—is one application, and that some members of his team have unspecified security clearances.
In addition to the hybrid propulsion system, the other new feature we found most interesting is called Regulus, an advanced vehicle operating system for “intelligent autonomy” to enable coordinated fleet operations. The cloud-based architecture enables the robots to “dynamically” download software changes or new applications and to reconfigure a mission while still at sea.
Not futuristic enough for you? Well, that’s just the industries that already exist. There’s two more Hine said he thinks might actually result from the release of his robots.
“I think that the way that we farm the ocean is transforming right now,” he said. “Once upon a time you used to go out into the wild and hunt creatures on the land, and then that turned into ranching. Well, we still go out and hunt for fish, but that’s starting to break down. And in its place aquaculture is growing rapidly. And acquaculture will be growing fish in farms, essentially netted areas in the ocean. There’s a tremendous amount of technology that’s being developed in how to grow fish and produce seafood in a sustainable, healthy way.”
Did someone say robot wranglers?
And the other market that may soon be created is private forecasting. “What we can predict of the environment, and the economic impact of those predictions could be enormous,” Hine said. But most of the forecasting research is performed by governments, he said, “And I’m not sure there isn’t a private model for producing predictions and monetizing that.”
The Wave Glider SV Series is available for sale today with deliveries of the SV3 beginning in Q3 of 2013.