The agreement with both the Applied Physics Laboratory and School of Oceanography reinforces the company's strong ties to world class academics. iRobot made the announcement from the show floor of the Association for Unmanned Vehicles International's (AUVSI) Unmanned Systems North America 2008 conference (iRobot Booth #1121) at the San Diego Convention Center.
"We have a strong track record for transferring new technology from research initiatives into products that support military missions," said Helen Greiner, co-founder and chairman of iRobot. "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."
A Seaglider underwater.
Seagliders help civilian, academic and military personnel make oceanographic measurements at a fraction of the cost of traditional research vessels or moored instruments. These long-range, high-endurance vehicles economize on energy consumption with 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.
"This is a wonderful example of the University of Washington's commitment to build partnerships with industry, and to successfully transfer innovative research to the commercial sector," said Russell McDuff, director of the School of Oceanography. "Our federal sponsors expect the university to be able to transition technology from the academic laboratory into the marketplace. We're delighted to have formed a great relationship with iRobot and are convinced that their strength in building autonomous robots is a great fit for the Seaglider technology."
The Office of Naval Research funded the original research and development behind Seaglider technology beginning in 1995 and is currently testing this vehicle for additional applications. More than 70 Seagliders have been delivered and many are currently in operation all over the world. Recent deployments include waters off Norway, Greenland, Taiwan, the Philippines and Iceland.