Liquid Robotics

What is your corporation most trying to accomplish with its new innovation?

Liquid Robotics’ goal is to instrument the ocean with fleets of networked, wave-powered ocean robots, solving critical problems for our defense, oil & gas, commercial, and science customers. Through the revolutionary innovation of the Wave Glider, the world’s first wave powered ocean robot, we can collect ocean data over expanses and at densities previously too costly or too risky to obtain. With this new capability, Wave Gliders will help scientists, governments and businesses better measure, monitor and collect valuable ocean data to address major world issues as global climate change, illegal fishing and natural resource depletion, ocean acidification and national security.  

What do you think sets your corporation’s work apart from the work of others in your field?

To understand what differentiates Liquid Robotics from others in the field, you need to first understand the elegance of the Wave Glider’s innovation that harvests wave energy for propulsion. The Wave Glider gets all its’ energy for propulsion from the ocean’s waves and uses solar energy to power the onboard sensors, computing, communications and navigation. No fuel is required and no emissions are produced. With this essentially limitless and free propulsion, Wave Gliders are able to travel across oceans for months/years; through cyclones, typhoons and hurricanes and are able to persistently gather and communicate ocean data on a far broader scale and with greater timeliness than ever before possible.

With this independence from non-renewable energies, Wave Gliders break the energy barrier to long duration ocean exploration and observation. Most ocean vehicles spend 80% of their fuel on propulsion while the Wave Glider gets all of its energy free from ocean waves. Additionally, the Wave Glider differentiates itself from other unmanned systems through the ability to collect, compute and transmit data in real time, 24x7x365 - at sea. Fully autonomous or remotely piloted, the Wave Glider’s sophisticated software environment provides a full range of autonomy from ship and obstacle detection to advanced swarming and data sharing capabilities across fleets of ocean robots. No other autonomous ocean system has this level of autonomy, energy independence or integrated functionality.

What or who inspired your corporation to come up with this innovation?

The inspiration came from Humpback Whales and the love of one man who wanted to capture their “singing” or whale songs as they migrated to the Hawaiian Islands from Alaska. Joe Rizzi, a highly successful venture capitalist and chairman of the Jupiter Research Foundation, commissioned Roger Hine, a noted robotics expert and mechanical engineer, to create an autonomous ocean vehicle that could stay offshore to capture and transmit back the whales’ singing. The design goals were few but very challenging. The autonomous platform had to be able to stay out at sea for long durations (months/year), in all weather states, and most importantly, with no impact to the whales or the environment. From this initial inspiration, Wave Gliders have been deployed in all five of the world’s oceans on customer missions across the defense, oil & gas, commercial and scientific markets.  

What role has serendipity played in the turning points in your corporation’s mission?

The famous quote “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity” (Roman philosopher, mid-1st century AD) is indeed true at Liquid Robotics. The Founders certainly prepared spending countless hours and years in design and testing. The testing began by placing their model in a home aquarium, followed by modifications and more tests in the family swimming pool and then to the Pacific Ocean. “Luck” occurred when the Wave Glider was undergoing engineering testing off the Big Island of Hawai’i and folks from the U.S. Navy noticed this strange surfboard sized autonomous vehicle. It was this “ opportunity” that led to the first Wave Glider sale into the Navy and the idea there was a broad commercial opportunity for ocean robots.         

What have been the greatest challenges that your corporation has encountered in developing your innovation?

The greatest challenge was to build an ocean robot equipped with sophisticated sensor payloads, computing, communications and navigation systems able to withstand salt water and the perils of the world’s oceans. Only 5% of the world’s oceans have been explored and seen due to the severe and harsh conditions. In the end, the innovators at Liquid Robotics designed the Wave Glider that overcame this daunting challenge. Since the Company’s founding in 2007, Wave Glider fleets have continued to prove their durability by amassing over 400,000 nautical miles at sea, navigating and communicating through 18+ hurricanes/typhoons/cyclones and receiving the Guinness World Record for the “longest journey of an autonomous unmanned surface vehicle on the planet” by their Pacific Crossing ocean robot, Benjamin. 

Do you believe leaders and innovators have certain qualities that they all share? If so, what?

The leadership at Liquid Robotics have many shared qualities yet, three that are fundamental to the Company’s culture and future are:

  • Passion for ocean preservation and helping the world to better measure, monitor and understand our planet’s oceans.
  • Vision to pioneer a new industry of ocean robots and to build a prosperous business delivering cost effective, low risk solutions for customers globally.
  • Collaboration and Innovation - across the Company, across industries and with Partners.

How would your corporation most like to change the world through its work?

Many of the most dramatic challenges humanity will face in the next century will relate to our oceans. The greatest challenges of these are global climate change, ocean acidification, dwindling food sources and ocean preservation. For the world's communities to address these issues, it will require a more sophisticated and greater understanding of our oceans than we have today. To gain this knowledge, we need continuous, easy access to affordable, real time ocean data on a global scale. The Wave Glider can help deliver towards this vision by instrumenting our oceans.

Wave Gliders open our oceans. It enables the world to collect data in densities and geographies over expanses of time never before available. By changing the economics of ocean data collection it removes the barriers to instrumenting our oceans. Imagine the possibilities with global fleets of Wave Gliders observing and monitoring the world's seas. Breakthroughs in global climate prediction, world's fisheries can be protected and increased to feed starving nations. Offshore oil fields can be monitored to detect wellhead seepage to avert environmental catastrophe. Economic devastation and human life can be saved through real time monitoring of tsunamis. These are just a few examples. The possibilities are limitless. The benefits transcend our generation.

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