Liquid Robotics Forges Strong U.K. Links in Drone Sector

Robotics Business Review

Liquid Robotics’ Wave Glider robot has driven the company’s latest moves to enter into a number of collaborative partnerships with marine drone organizations in the U.K. The unmanned surface vehicle manufacturer plans to further extend operations in a country it views as a “known innovator” in the sector.

In late October 2016, the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company, which has since been acquired by Boeing, took part in the Royal Navy-hosted Unmanned Warrior Maritime Autonomous Systems (MAS) exercise, the first-ever large-scale demonstration of marine robotic systems for military applications.

As part of the initiative, Liquid Robotics deployed several of its novel Wave Glider units, which are known in the defense sector as a sensor-hosting autonomous remote craft. It demonstrated the ways in which military and security customers can employ the platform to collect ocean data as well as to track submarines, even in extreme sea states.

Over a fortnight, the units successfully located and tracked an advancing unmanned underwater vehicle and a manned diesel submarine — and also provided a wealth of detailed intelligence to exercise chiefs in real time.

Two additional devices, kitted out with a range of meteorological and oceanographic sensors, were launched in the harsh conditions of the North Atlantic to autonomously collect data around the clock and provide real-time data on the weather and ocean conditions vital for the safe operation of the Unmanned Warrior systems.

Innovation Centre

Soon after the conclusion of the Unmanned Warrior exercise, Liquid Robotics announced it had inked a deal to become an Associate Member of the U.K. National Oceanography Centre’s (NOC) Marine Robotics Innovation Centre (MIRC).

The Liquid Robotics Wave Rider

The Wave Rider from Liquid Robotics can support a number of different sensors as payloads (Credit: Boeing)

As explained by Chris Webb, senior director, EMEA, Defense & Security at Liquid Robotics, the move came about largely as a consequence of the company’s strong relationship with the NOC team, which is a long-term customer of the Wave Glider device.

“In a logical expansion of our relationship and to increase our presence in the U.K. maritime robotics market, we were pleased to become a member of this fine Innovation Centre,” Webb said.

“The benefit of working with the MRIC is the value of being in the collaborative environment and working with other companies and entrepreneurs that want to make robots work together to help scientists and governments solve difficult ocean problems,” Webb added. “The future of ocean science, ocean preservation, and fostering the blue economy lies in the interconnection of unmanned and manned systems to provide real-time access to ocean data.”

Liquid Robotics has certainly enjoyed success with marketing the Wave Glider in the U.K., where it has also been deployed for a number of non-military applications, including environmental assessment, meteorological and oceanographic (METOC) measurements, and on-demand water sampling.

Liquid Robotics’ Wave Glider as a versatile platform

The Wave Glider has also been used for maritime surveillance — specifically, to detect the presence of surface vessels in an ocean area, like a marine protected area (MPA). For this type of mission, Webb revealed that Wave Gliders are equipped with multiple sensors, above and below the water, to detect vessels and report on ocean and environmental conditions.

“We demonstrated these capabilities for the U.K. Foreign Office Commonwealth for the Pitcairn Island MPA,” Webb explained. “This was a joint project with Pew Charitable Trusts and the U.K.-based Catapult to demonstrate cost-effective ways to patrol an MPA for illegal fishing vessels and to monitor ocean conditions.”

“The Wave Glider has also been used in the oil and gas industry by U.K.-based companies, such as British Petroleum, which deployed units in the Gulf of Mexico to support a range of METOC-related measurements, including water quality, hydrocarbon detection, and currents,” he said.

Looking ahead, Webb pointed out that Liquid Robotics will “continue to partner with key U.K. organizations” across key areas of focus, including environmental assessment, oil and gas, and maritime security and defense in the coming years.

“The U.K. is known as an innovator in this sector,” he said. “Moving forward, we see further collaboration with other platform providers to advance both technology areas, such as gateway communications with subsea and surface platforms, and industry segments, such as maritime surveillance — border security and surveillance — environmental assessment applications for both METOC observations and fish and mammal assessment and monitoring.”

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