November 19, 2015      

Surface and undersea robotics is a Kraken Sonar Systems Inc. has acquired technology, intellectual property, and staffers from Marine Robotics Inc. for an undisclosed amount.

Marine Robotics was spun out of Marport Deep Sea Technologies Inc. in 2011 but ceased operations when Saint John’s, Newfoundland-based Marport went into receivership in 2013.

Marine Robotics worked with several research institutions in Canada and worldwide, with sales offices in France, Iceland, Spain, and the U.S. Co-founder Karl Kenny had hoped to open an office in India.

However, early this year, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency sued Marport and its affiliates for defaulting on a total of $2.3 million in loans.

“I think the underlying technology and the underlying business was still valid and strong, but that doesn’t always necessarily mean the structure worked,” said Derrick Row, former Marport director. “I think it really is irrelevant where it was, and I don’t think there was any Newfoundland component that was negative at all. I think it was just the situation that the company took on a lot of debt and risk, and sometimes that needs to be restructured. And that’s what happened.”

Airmar Technology Corp. in Milford, N.H., acquired Marport’s fishing division, and Nautel Ltd. in Hackett’s Cove, Nova Scotia, pursued some of Marport’s intellectual property.

Kraken snares Marine Robotics assets

Kraken Sonar Systems is a subsidiary of Kraken Sonar Inc. in Conception Bay South, Newfoundland. The company was founded in 2012 and produces and sells synthetic aperture sonar systems and other sensors for real-time viewing and measuring of the seabed.

The company sells its products to defense contractors, commercial surveyors, and research institutions and expects the market for marine robotics to be healthy.

Kraken acquired an SQX robot from Marine Robotics.

Among other Marine Robotics assets, Kraken got an operational SQX drone.

“We believe that the ocean drone market is at an inflection point and set for major growth,” said Kenny, now president and CEO of Kraken. “This acquisition brings us a significant underwater technology and IP portfolio and continues to build on our sensors-to-systems strategy to be a market leader in the unmanned maritime systems industry.”

Kraken has also hired most of the defunct company’s senior engineers. Among the technology that Kraken has acquired from Marine Robotics is an operational SQX-400 unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV).

Components from the SQX that Kraken plans to use in its UUVs include the following, according to a press release:

  • Fully-redundant, fault-tolerant power-distribution system
  • Field-replaceable actuators and thrusters
  • Oil-compensated, pressure-tolerant electronics
  • Robust, high-reliability fault management and fault response system
  • Modular, hardware-independent control system design
  • Self-calibrating, non-ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) navigation solution
  • Highly robust data compression and communication encoding scheme

This past summer, Kraken Sonar won a $325,000 contract to provide its AquaPix sonar equipment for France-based ECA Robotics‘ A18D autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV).

AUVs see better, swim faster

The global market for undersea drones could grow to $343.4 million by 2020, according to a study by Markets and Markets. North America currently has the largest share, but the Asia-Pacific region is expected to experience a compound annual growth rate of 14.63 percent.

The defense industry held 49 percent of that market last year, said the report, which also noted that improved AUV endurance and data-processing capabilities are driving growth.

For instance, Oceaneering Survey Services recently bought two ULS-500 subsea laser systems from 2G Robotics Inc. Oceaneering Survey Services is a subsidiary of Oceaneering International Inc. and already had four ULS-500 units on its autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) for inspecting undersea pipelines.

Waterloo, Ontario-based 2G Robotics said its deep-rated laser scanners are designed for dynamic scanning, are more efficient than sonar techniques, and can provide more accurate data for 3D modeling.

Berkeley, Calif.-based startup OpenROV last month raised $815,601 via Kickstarter for its Trident remotely operated vehicle. The goal of the crowdfunding campaign was $50,000.

The drone is maneuverable and can move about 4.4 mph, or “as fast as Michael Phelps,” co-founders David Lang and Eric Stackpole told TechCrunch. Trident was inspired by a search for sunken treasure and is intended to be an open-source platform for educators and ocean explorers.