June 11, 2008 Best known for its ventures in land-based military vehicles and home-helper robots, iRobot has now branched out into the autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) market. The company will commercialize "Seaglider" technology from the University of Washington, a system which assists civilian, academic and military personnel in taking oceanographic measurements at a lower cost than traditional research vessels or moored instruments.
Seagliders are AUVs designed for long-range, high-endurance missions that economize on energy consumption. This is achieved using a buoyancy-based propulsion system to support mission ranges of thousands of kilometers and deployments lasting up to several months. Instruments can be attached to the Seaglider to continuously collect oceanic physical properties across a range of depths and areas, providing valuable insights to oceanographers and military planners.
The Office of Naval Research funded the original research and development behind the Seaglider technology beginning in 1995 and is currently testing the vehicle for additional applications. More than 70 Seagliders have been delivered and many are currently in operation all over the world.
Helen Greiner, co-founder and chairman of iRobot, said the company has a strong track record of transferring new technology from research initiatives into products that support military missions. “Ten years ago we transformed the original PackBot into a combat-proven robot used today by soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, and licensing the Seaglider from the University of Washington will help our robots conquer new underwater frontiers,” she said.