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Wave-powered robot funded for sea missions

Liquid Robotics' Wave Glider can propel itself and send back ocean monitoring data for oceanic research as well as commercial and government applications.

It started monitoring humpback whales, but Liquid Robotics expects its self-powered marine drone to be deployed for many other missions, including defense and industrial applications.

Liquid Robotics yesterday said that it raised $22 million from VantagePoint Capital Partners and has hired Bill Vass, a former Sun Microsystems president and COO with experience selling to the federal government, as CEO.

It's the first institutional funding for the company, which developed an autonomous ocean robot called the Wave Glider for environmental research when it was a joint venture between Jupiter Research Foundation and Roger Hine. That project evolved into the Liquid Robotics company, which launched in 2007 to further develop the technology. The robots are being used by research institutions, including the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Scripps Institution of Oceanography, as well as for national security and offshore oil and gas exploration.

"We can now record wide-ranging, long-term oceanic and atmospheric observations in real time, and unleash capabilities in a way never before possible," said VantagePoint Capital Partners CEO Alan Salzman in a statement.

The Wave Glider uses the up and down motion of waves to propel itself with a series of fins, with one trial run lasting more than a year with minor inspections. The glider portion, which is underwater, is tethered to a float equipped with solar panels that power a satellite-based communications system.

The system allows remote operators to control the device and gather data on environmental monitoring applications.

One of the investors in this round is oil services company Schlumberger. Liquid Robotics either sells the robots directly to customers or it provides data services to customers.