It has been about one year since this author met in person with Gary Gysin, Liquid Robotics’ President & CEO. The corporate leader’s wry observation that, “things have gotten pretty interesting,” may have been one of the understatements this author heard at this year’s Navy League.
Back in December, Boeing acquired Liquid Robotics. While a wholly owned Boeing subsidiary, the Sunnyvale, California-based company remains an independent entity with its name intact. And that’s for starters. From a marketing perspective Liquid Robotics’ view of the ocean environment has broadened beyond supplying sensors in the defence and adjacent sectors to a “Digital Ocean” construct. Gysin pointed out: “We are a sensor-hosted platform if you will. We know so little about the oceans. There’s a huge opportunity to sensor network the oceans – undersea, surface and aerial.”
This is an ecosystem-type initiative, so to speak, with stakeholders in industry, government and other entities bringing to bear their technologies and other resources to establish a Digital Ocean and complete the many building blocks for this construct – common interfaces and related challenges. While at the Liquid Robotics booth, this author had the privilege to gain insights on the Digital Ocean and related matters from Admiral (ret.) Sir George Zambellas, the former First Sea Lord of the British Royal Navy, and current member of Liquid Robotics’ global Strategic Advisory Board. Zambellas minced no words when he noted that one of the unstated challenges in the entire autonomous vehicle enterprise is to, “connect up these systems.”
And while he acknowledged that within a company structure, an integrated solution can be achieved vertically, from seabed to surface, “in the real world, of procurement and equipment sharing, not just within navies but across navies, across security constructs, you need to get an integrated solution – and that means sharing data and understanding protocols to be shared.”
To that end, Zambellas recalled that he designed the fall 2016 British Royal Navy event “Unmanned Warrior,” familiar to readers of MILITARY TECHNOLOGY and NAVAL FORCES. “This was to be an opportunity, a test, for companies big and small to get together and begin the journey mutual sharing and trying to create an atmosphere, an opportunity space, for them.”
Liquid Robotics and Boeing were well represented at the event – using for the first time a network of persistent USVs to detect, report and track a live submarine in a naval demonstration. Over a two-week demonstration, four Liquid Robotics Sensor Hosting Autonomous Remote Craft (SHARC) using advanced Boeing acoustic sensors were deployed off the coast of Northern Scotland in a live anti-submarine warfare mission. The Liquid Robotics team recalled during the demonstration, the SHARCs successfully detected and tracked an advancing unmanned underwater vehicle and most significantly – a manned diesel submarine. The SHARCs provided detailed and actionable intelligence to commanders through more than 100 automated contact reports, proving the USVs efficacy to autonomously conduct ASW missions and exchange data in real time.
Beyond the successful, inaugural “Unmanned Warrior event,” Zambellas pointed out the fall 2017 Unmanned Warrior will, “exploit the information side, focusing our minds on information as the challenge, and try to walk past obstructions, such as ‘Who has what platform?’”
Indeed, the former military leader emphasized in his current industry capacity, he is evangelistic about this need, “trying to persuade serious, long-visioned decision makers that the data sharing domain in the maritime environment is really important.”
Zambellas and Liquid Robotics are in lock-step in helping to move the unmanned vehicle community to this next higher level of attention and action.