iRobot licenses underwater robotic technology

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Seaglider

Seagliders are not exactly designed for household use, but they got a new mentor today. iRobot has announced today that they signed a licensing agreement with UW TechTransfer at Washington University to use the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) Seaglider technology in iRobot's commercially available underwater robots. Seagliders are used on long autonomous missions to collect all kind of scientific data in the ocean.

Unlike submarines and other underwater vehicles, Seagliders move without a propeller. Movements are achieved solely by sinking and surfacing in an angle, instead of straight vertical line. During sinking the pipe shaped robot shifts its battery pack to the nose, while the wings drive the robot in a slanted direction. During raising the battery shifts to the back, and buoyancy is achieved by a swim bladder. While on surface, the robots can upload information or receive commands through satellite data connection. Seagliders can travel thousands of kilometers and stay in the water unattended for several months. Currently over 70 Seagliders are deployed all over the world, recent areas include the waters of Norway, Greenland, Taiwan, the Philippines and Iceland.

There is no word on iRobot's plans with the new licenses, but it isn't hard to guess that the first iRobot Seagliders will be aimed for US Navy use. We really hope that iRobot will also launch civilian versions for scientific use.

Press release: 

iRobot Enters Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Market

License with UW TechTransfer Secures Sole Rights to the Seaglider™ Vehicle and Technology

BEDFORD, Mass., June 10, 2008 – iRobot Corp. (Nasdaq: IRBT) today announced a sole licensing agreement with UW TechTransfer at the University of Washington to commercialize Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) Seaglider technology previously supported by the Office of Naval Research and the National Science Foundation. 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.”

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.

About UW TechTransfer
Established in 1982, UW TechTransfer facilitates the commercialization of new innovations arising from UW research through the management and licensing of intellectual property. Since the department’s founding, UW TechTransfer has helped create more than 235 companies in Washington state and abroad. In FY07, UW TechTransfer generated $38 million in total revenue from all sources. Additionally, UW TechTransfer manages a total patent portfolio of over 2000 issued and pending patents filed in the U.S. and around the world. For additional information about UW TechTransfer, visit http://depts.washington.edu/techtran/.

About iRobot Corp.
iRobot is a provider of robots that perform dull, dirty or dangerous missions in a better way. The company's proprietary technology, iRobot AWARE™ Robot Intelligence Systems, incorporates advanced concepts in navigation, mobility, manipulation and artificial intelligence. This proprietary system enables iRobot to build behavior-based robots, including its family of consumer and military robots. For additional information about iRobot, visit http://www.irobot.com.

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