May 22, 2013      

Last October, iRobot closed the doors on its maritime drones operation in Durham, NC as part of a corporate restructuring that included a 13 percent cut across the company’s entire workforce. In addition to layoffs, the abrupt shut-down essentially orphaned the Seaglider robots that were produced there. (iRobot had sold the marine robots since licensing the Seaglider technology from the University of Washington in 2008.)

Now, however, Kongsberg Underwater Technology, Inc. will resurrect the Seaglider with a new commercial license from UW. The company may be a better fit for the marine robot as it’s focus is solely devoted to naval systems and their related technologies. The Seaglider lends itself to numerous applications for Kongsberg’s customers–among them major drill ship builders–including ocean mapping, surveying and security.

Here’s the press release:

Seaglider? is an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) system developed at UW’s School of Oceanography and Applied Physics Laboratory with funding from the Office of Naval Research and the National Science Foundation. Rather than using a propeller to move through the water, a Seaglider uses fixed wings and changes in buoyancy to achieve both vertical and forward motion. It can dive as deep as 1,000 meters and then ascend to the surface to communicate data on water properties, such as temperature, salinity, and oxygen concentration, back to users via satellite. After verifying position and getting any new instructions, it dives again, repeating the cycle over and over.

The use of buoyancy propulsion is very energy efficient and allows mission periods of over 9 months and distances of thousands of kilometers rather than just a few days and tens of kilometers, typical of propeller-driven AUVs.

“We are extremely pleased to add Seaglider? technology to Kongsberg’s market leading AUV product line,” said Tom Healy, President of Kongsberg Underwater Technology, Inc. “Seaglider? will allow us to further expand into new segments of the marine technology market. It fits very well with our philosophy of providing comprehensive, FULL PICTURE, solutions to our customers.”

Fritz Stahr, Manager of UW’s Seaglider Fabrication Center, noted: “In looking for a new commercial licensee for Seaglider?, we wanted a company with broad experience in both the marine instrument and AUV businesses. Kongsberg fits that bill well and we hope they will bring this technology to many more people interested in understanding the ocean.”