AI Business is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 3099067.

Transport

Sea Machines Robotics raises $15m for autonomous ships platform

by Louis Stone
Article Image

Because AI doesn’t get sea-sick

An autonomous vessels specialist has closed a $15m funding round backed by the largest military shipbuilding company in the US, Huntington Ingalls Industries.

Sea Machines Robotics developed a platform for line-of-sight and remote-vessel control in 2018, but has increasingly focused on self-piloting systems.

Its upcoming SM400 uses computer vision, LiDAR, object identification, and tracking, to understand its surroundings.

Getting shipshape

At the moment, Sea Machines still wants humans in the loop (but not necessarily on the vessel) - primarily pitching AI as a way of reducing repetitive tasks, reducing fatigue, and improving predictability. The long-term goal, however, is to create completely autonomous systems.

“We are entering a phase of growth and universal interest like what was witnessed in the self-driving automotive space starting five years ago, but the difference being that marine self-piloting systems are already operationally deployed,” CEO Michael G. Johnson said.

“We expect to see broad adoption of autonomous technology on water ahead of that on roads.”

The new investment comes with the benefits of an undefined partnership with investor HII. “Being selected as technology partner by HII, a leader in every right, further affirms our course in product and market approach,” Johnson added.

Sea Machines has previously run a container ship trial with logistics giant Maersk, and deployed a small number of data-collecting survey boats, oil-spill response craft, as well as search-and-rescue, patrol and crew transfer vessels.

Last year, the Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration agreed to test a system that included the company’s 'TALOS' product – the technology that actually connects the autonomous sensors to the vessel's propulsion and navigation equipment.

Earlier this month, SMR unveiled a concept Autonomous Guard Vessel designed for surveillance of offshore structures, created in collaboration with several other companies and naval architects C-Job.

Thanks to its latest $15m round, Sea Machines expects to win further deals, as it seeks to prove its technology out in the field ocean. The round was led by Accomplice with participation by Toyota AI Ventures, Brunswick Corp, Geekdom Fund, NextGen Venture Partners, Eniac VC, and LaunchCapital.

“Five percent of global GDP is directly fueled by the marine economy and the industry is poised for technology innovation,” said Ryan Moore, partner at Accomplice. “Michael and the Sea Machines team have achieved significant progress and this financing underscores our strong position.”

Sea Machines competes with several other autonomous ship ventures; for example, Rolls-Royce and Intel partnered in 2018 to develop systems for autonomous cargo ships and IBM teamed up with Promare on a self-driving vessel, among others.

In the defense sector, competition is even more fierce, with most major military contractors developing autonomous vessel projectsincluding the BAE Systems P24 ship we saw last year.

Practitioner Portal - for AI practitioners

Story

Shaping AI and analytics services

8/6/2020

AI and analytics teams must market themselves – and they have to have a clear service strategy

Story

UK's ICO publishes guidance on AI and data protection

8/3/2020

The document aims to help organizations mitigate the risks of using personal data in AI applications

Practitioner Portal

EBooks

More EBooks

Upcoming Webinars

More Webinars

Experts in AI

Partner Perspectives

content from our sponsors

Research Reports

More Research Reports

Infographics

AI tops the list of most impactful emerging technologies

Infographics archive

Newsletter Sign Up


Sign Up