Boeing boosts unmanned networking of sensors and communications with Liquid Robotics acquisition
ST. LOUIS, 7 Dec. 2016. Executives of the Boeing Co., are boosting their company's ability to network sensors and communications systems located from the bottom of the ocean to orbital space with their acquisition of unmanned marine vehicles specialist Liquid Robotics Inc. in Sunnyvale, Calif.
Liquid Robotics has notable expertise in long-range and long-endurance unmanned surface vessels (USVs) that can operate on the world's oceans for months or years at a time. These USVs can act as communications relays that can link ocean-floor sensors to satellite communications (SATCOM) networks in real time.
Widespread use of this kind of technology could lend itself to unprecedented global situational awareness that could monitor submarines, surface ships, aircraft, and spacecraft simultaneously. Details of Boeing's acquisition of Liquid Robotics were not released.
Perhaps the flagship product of Liquid Robotics is the Wave Glider USV, which runs on power generated by wave and solar energy to operate individually or in fleets to deliver real-time data for as long as one year with no fuel, company officials say.
In September 2014 Boeing and Liquid Robotics formed a teaming agreement to develop a version of the Wave Glider called the Sensor Hosting Autonomous Remote Craft (SHARC). The SHARC USV integrates Boeing’s advanced sensors, and connects intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities ranging from satellites to manned and unmanned aircraft to manned and unmanned submarines.
Since the company's founding in 2007 the Wave Glider USV has traveled more than 1 million nautical miles for ocean data collection and communications. Wave Glider has traveled through several hurricanes to gather important weather data.
Wave Glider dangles a submarine wing rack below the surface vessel on a 13-foot umbilical tether. This transfers energy from surface waves to the wing rack below to produce forward propulsion. The Wave Glider can travel at speeds as fast as 3 knots. The surface craft has solar panels to harvest energy from the sun for onboard sensors and communications.
The Wave Glider is well suited for covert operations. Its low profile is nearly impossible to detect with radar or infrared sensors. The USV also is acoustically silent, which makes it nearly impossible to detect by submerged submarines or deployed acoustic sonar arrays.
Wave Glider can carry or tow a range of sensors, including acoustic Doppler current profiler (ADCP) sensors, weather stations, fluorometers, hydrophones,, cameras, and water quality-sensors.
“With Liquid Robotics’s innovative technology and Boeing’s leading intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance solutions, we are helping our customers address maritime challenges in ways that make existing platforms smarter, missions safer, and operations more efficient,” says Leanne Caret, president and CEO of the Boeing Defense, Space & Security segment in St. Louis.
When the acquisition closes Liquid Robotics will become a subsidiary of Boeing operating under its current business model and reporting to Kory Mathews, vice president of Autonomous Systems for Defense, Space & Security.
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