Up, up and away: Advanced Navigation founders win top prize at Sydney Young Entrepreneur Awards

Up, up and away: Advanced Navigation founders win top prize at Sydney Young Entrepreneur Awards

Advanced Navigation co-founders Xavier Orr and Chris Shaw (Provided)

After spending the last decade creating cutting-edge technology Down Under, the founders of artificial intelligence robotics company Advanced Navigation took out the most prestigious accolade at the 2022 Sydney Young Entrepreneur Awards last night.

The company was co-founded by engineers Chris Shaw and Xavier 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. 

Advanced Navigation'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 Airbus, Boeing, Tesla, Google and General Motors.

“NASA is finally going back to the moon after a 30-year hiatus. We're really excited to have won the contract to do all the navigation on the lunar lander. That's probably the highlight customer for this year,” Orr told Business News Australia.

The contract will see Advanced Navigations be the first Australian company to reach the Moon through the development of its two navigation systems - the first of which is the Boreas X90, an inertial navigation system (INS) that enables positioning of extreme precision without using relatively fixed references, such as stars, or requiring base station control telemetry. 

Meanwhile, the light detection altimetry and velocimetry (LiDAV) system uses lasers to detect a whole range of parameters detailing a vehicle’s environment. It can also indicate its velocity and position relative to the lunar surface in three dimensions.

The combined technology – which is estimated to deliver $85 million in value for lunar missions – is critical for complex autonomous landings and is designed to allow space vehicles to reliably explore shadowed craters and lava tubes on the Moon.

The deal came after Advanced Navigations acquired Canberra-based Vai Photonics in May, which developed LiDAV for more than 15 years at the Australian National University (ANU) before it spun out as a business.

The buyout – worth up to $40 million – was finalised seven months ago and saw Vai Photonics integrate into Advanced Navigation’s research and development team based in the nation’s capital.  

“It’s really exciting patented technology - it has enormous applications for things like driverless cars, flying taxis, aircraft and even weather prediction,” Orr said.

“There's so much talent in Australia developing really great technology. We’re on the lookout for more of that to join the Advanced Navigation team.”

On top of the acquisition, the company also set its sights on expansion after securing a 5.5-acre site in Perth where it will aim to produce 10,000 units of its fully autonomous submersible drone Hydrus. The underwater technology can help monitor CO2 absorption, reef bleaching, loss of sea life and biodiversity, coastal erosion, fishery declines, and more.

“Whether you've got pipes, internet cables, bridge footing and any kind of infrastructure within a harbor, port or river that needs regular maintenance and inspection - it can take on that job that would otherwise be quite laborious,” Orr explained.

When asked about what helped the company's path to success, Orr noted that demonstrating the technology worked for free was pivotal to getting customers on board.

“Because we do get significantly better results than anything else that is on the market,  a lot of it was trying to get people to believe that,” Orr said.

“We found very quickly the best way to do that is a live demonstration. We would loan units to customers so they can try it for themselves or we’d do trade shows where we can show people in the flesh the performance we were getting [and] how well it all operated.

“Then very quickly - seeing we developed a bit of a name for ourselves - everyone understood that we had this revolutionary technology. It all drove itself from there.”

According to the judges, their societal impact and innovation combined with business performance put the founders at the top of the pile when it came to selecting Sydney’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year, amidst a competitive cohort that included Neolink founders and winners of the Trailblazer Award, Sean Crook and Christopher Makhoul.

“It's been a great journey. The original foundation technology can be applied to many different fields. The mission is to be the driver of the autonomy revolution and a lot of our products power autonomous systems and robotics,” Orr said.

Advanced Navigation was just one example of the impressive finalists on display at the 2022 Sydney Young Entrepreneur Awards which was supported by corporate partners Go1VentureCrowdOSWWhispir and iVvy.

See below for all winners from the night, and we thank all participants for sharing their stories with the Business News Australia journalists.

All winners at the 2022 Sydney Young Entrepreneur Awards

  • Young Entrepreneurs of the Year – Xavier Orr and Chris Shaw (Advanced Navigation)
  • Trailblazer – Sean Crook and Christopher Makhoul (Neolink)
  • Digital Disruptor – Rob Hango-Zada and William On (Shippit)
  • Fashion & Design – Sam Wood (Azura Fashion Group)
  • Finance – Bishara Hatoum (Fundo Loans)
  • Food & Beverage – Carl Hartmann (Lyre's)
  • Health & Medicine – Abdul Razak and Samira Razak (Maple Community Services)
  • Hospitality & Tourism – Ben Lipschitz (FoodByUs)
  • Manufacturing, Wholesale & Distribution - Matthew Holloway (Holloway Group)
  • Marketing – Chris Parker (Awaken)
  • PR, Media & Events – Alborz Fallah and Paul Maric (CarExpert.com.au)
  • Professional Services – Sean Crook and Chistopher Makhoul (Neolink)
  • Property & Construction – Sam Jamsheedi (Trademark Group, Trademark Global)
  • Retail & Services – George Papura (Georgiemane)
  • Specialist Services – Alexis Soulopoulos (Mad Paws)
  • Startup - Brad Manuel (Livewire Group International)
  • Sustainability & Social Responsibility – Anaita Sarkar & Vikram Davé (Hero Packaging)
  • Technology – Xavier Orr & Chris Shaw (Advanced Navigation)

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