Only five months after securing $108 million in a Series B, deep tech company Advanced Navigation has unveiled a new 5.5-acre subsea robotics centre based in the Perth suburb of Balcatta.
The research and development (R&D) facility will accelerate the production of a fully autonomous submersible drone called Hydrus, of which the company aims to eventually produce 10,000 units.
The underwater technology, developed after acquiring McDermont Engineering in 2015, can help monitor CO2 absorption, reef bleaching, loss of sea life and biodiversity, coastal erosion, fishery declines, and more.
Advanced Navigation already uses its AI technology to offer a variety of navigation solutions for global giants such as Ford, Airbus and NASA - the latter having selected the company to provide two navigation systems that will allow space vehicles to reliably explore shadowed craters and lava tubes on the Moon.
“This one [acquisition] allowed us to expand into the underwater space and apply our same AI technology on the water front, and that has allowed us to move into quite a number of applications in the underwater space and also create the underwater robot, which is now a major product of ours. It's really unlocked a quick path to market to take our technology into,” Advanced Navigation co-founder Xavier Orr explained at the inaugural E2E Summit in February.
“Prior to Hydrus coming along, you would need a special vessel [and] a trained crew to drop a robot in the water, run an underwater survey and get ocean data.”
Instead of requiring all that manpower, Orr explained that the drone can be managed by just one person.
“We've got a very strong demand at the moment and really good applications…like trying to save the Great Barrier Reef from the Crown of Thorns starfish and also the Ningaloo Reef in WA where there are some invasive predators, and doing ocean research with NOAA - which is the North America migration ocean division of the government," Orr said at the E2E Summit.
The subsea facility is split between development and manufacturing for high-volume production and continued research and expansion of subsea navigation and robotics technologies.
“The new subsea centre will help Advanced Navigation meet the growing demand for high-grade underwater data, bringing new and existing solutions to market far more quickly and efficiently,” said Orr, who won 2022 Sydney Young Entrepreneur of the Year alongside his co-founder Chris Shaw.
“With the goal to grow our subsea team threefold, we are confident this investment will deepen and advance our understanding of the oceans.”
Advanced Navigation was co-founded by engineers Shaw and Orr, who worked on commercialising the latter’s thesis research on AI-based inertial navigation, which uses computers, motion sensors and rotation sensors to determine an object’s positioning.
“With the first product, were able to deliver a 10-times performance increase over what was on the market and a 40 per cent reduction in size, weight and power,” Orr explained at the E2E summit.
“That gave us a huge advantage to quickly pulling customers. We're also able to apply that same neural network technology to sonar, photonics and robotics, which is how we're we've expanded the company.”
Founded over a decade ago, the company’s technology has developed solutions for driverless cars, unmanned military vehicles, autonomous farming, vessel navigation and more. With customers in 70-plus countries, its clients include global giants like Boeing, Tesla, Google and General Motors.
“It’s exciting to see Advanced Navigation continue to grow its team of engineers in Western Australia,” University of Western Australia Ocean Institute coastal and ocean researcher Justin Geldard said.
“At UWA we are researching how natural and artificial reef structures can protect coastlines by dissipating wave energy – Hydrus is a key tool in mapping and surveying these underwater structures.
“The technology makes more efficient use of our funds and ultimately scales up our ability to collect high-resolution data.”
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