Boeing and Liquid Robotics, two RBR50 companies, have signed a multiyear agreement to collaborate on autonomous ocean robots that will handle a variety of surveillance jobs, including searching for submarines and detecting drug traffickers.
Terms of the deal were undisclosed.
Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Liquid Robotics is known for its Wave Glider SV3, a $300,000 autonomous maritime robot that collects data in the open water, as it did with the recent storms in Hawaii.
Boeing, the world’s second-largest defense contractor with $33 billion in sales in 2013, is already in the maritime surveillance business with its P-8 submarine hunter and the Maritime Surveillance Aircraft. However, it will add Liquid Robotics’ autonomous ocean technology into its systems.
Gary Gysin, CEO of Liquid Robotics, tells CNET this “makes the company” as the deal could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars and could potentially lead to a future IPO.
Boeing is expected to sell the civil and defense agencies, including the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard and foreign governments.
“It’s a great opportunity to partner with Liquid Robotics to provide new and existing customers a unique portfolio of defense solutions and capabilities,” Chris Chadwick, president and CEO of Boeing Defense, Space & Security, said in a statement. “This relationship allows the Boeing-Liquid Robotics team to solve maritime security and surveillance challenges in entirely new and highly effective ways and provides unprecedented capability and value to customers worldwide.”
Boeing covers its bases
The announcement of the Boeing-Liquid Robotics partnership comes a week after Chadwick called on weapon makers to be more creative to meet the requirements of a shrinking budget from the Pentagon, which just happens to be Boeing’s biggest client.
“You’re seeing commercial companies, commercial technologies start to impinge on areas where we’ve always been strong,” Chadwick recently said during a speech at the Air Force Association’s Air and Space Conference.
Since taking the reins of Boeing Defense, Space & Security late in 2013, Chadwick has been planning a transformation of the division as key aircraft programs such as the C-17 transport and the F/A-18 fighter wind down. And the last batch of Boeing’s F-15s bound for Saudi Arabia are due to roll off the production line in 2019.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Boeing also is closing the Long Beach, Calif., plant that makes C-17 military cargo jets in 2015. Combined with the end of F/A-18 and F-15 production, the moves will cut 50 percent of the revenue from the existing military aircraft unit.
Michel Merluzeau, managing partner at aerospace consultancy G2 Solutions LLC, tells the WSJ Boeing “is kind of at a crossroads,” adding “they sit between their legacy portfolio, and a reshaping portfolio.”
With a significant amount of revenue disappearing in the near future, perhaps this partnership with Liquid Robotics will help Boeing increase its revenues in the maritime surveillance market.
Another big partnership for Liquid Robotics
This partnership is also another nod to Liquid Robotics and the demand for its technology that can autonomously monitor oceans for long periods of time. In 2012, Liquid Robotics partnered with the world’s largest oil services company, Schlumberger Oil and Gas, to form Liquid Robotics Oil and Gas.
Liquid Robotics and Schlumberger have equal ownership of the joint venture. Liquid Robotics will provide fleets of Wave Gliders together with relevant engineering, piloting and maintenance expertise, while Schlumberger brings their upstream technology and market leadership.
Here’s more information about this partnership: “As oil and gas companies face increasing operational demands and technical complexities, access to new sources of offshore environmental data will be increasingly important. Traditional offshore environmental data acquisition methods (e.g. support ships, satellites and ROVs) for monitoring and surveying provide a valuable service.”
“However, they are limited in range and mission duration and are expensive to use and maintain. Implementing innovative remote monitoring and survey technologies at lower acquisition costs and with greater operational efficiencies provides a significant business advantage.”
“Liquid Robotics Oil & Gas brings this advantage through the delivery of continuous real time measurement solutions for applications including seep and containment loss detection, meteorology/oceanography (METOC), and subsea communications, in a highly cost effective manner. Delivered securely and on-demand, these services help customers meet the increasing demands that come from operating in ever more challenging environments.”