Kongsberg Underwater Technology, Inc. signs agreement to produce UW’s Seaglider™ technology.

Seaglider underwaterSeaglider™ is an innovative underwater robot developed at UW’s School of Oceanography and Applied Physics Laboratory that has revolutionized ocean data collection.

The UW first began production of the Seaglider for customers seven years ago in its own UW Seaglider Fabrication Center. In 2008, UW licensed the technology to iRobot based in Massachussetts to take over production for external customers, while continuing to produce the robots for internal UW customers. Last fall, iRobot shuttered its Seaglider plant and, this month, the UW signed a license with Kongsberg Underwater Technology Inc. to begin production of the robots here in Western Washington.

To date, the UW has manufactured 121 Seagliders and iRobot created 80, of which 71 went to clients in the US and around the world, including Japan, France, South Africa, and Ecuador. Kongsberg will pick up where iRobot left off, taking orders for Seagliders from customers external to UW.

Seaglider-in-factory“We are extremely pleased to add Seaglider technology to Kongsberg’s market leading AUV product line,” said Tom Healy, President of Kongsberg Underwater Technology, Inc. “Seaglider will allow us to further expand into new segments of the marine technology market. It fits very well with our philosophy of providing comprehensive, full picture, solutions to our customers.”

Fritz Stahr, Manager of UW’s Seaglider Fabrication Center, noted: “In looking for a new commercial licensee for Seaglide, we wanted a company with broad experience in both the marine instrument and AUV (autonomous underwater vehicle) businesses. Kongsberg fits that bill well and we hope they will bring this technology to many more people interested in understanding the ocean.”

Seaglider: a revolutionary tool for exploring the ocean
The Seaglider has proven an invaluable tool for marine exploration, allowing scientists to collect data over lengthy missions at a fraction of the cost of traditional research vessels and instruments. This unmanned robot can travel to regions, like the Labrador Sea and the Gulf of Alaska, that ships simply cannot go, especially during the winter. And Seaglider can go under hurricanes, to oil spills, and near volcanoes to extend our knowledge greatly, without risking human life and limb.

Rather than using a propeller to move through the water, a Seaglider uses fixed wings and changes in buoyancy to achieve both vertical and forward motion. It can dive as deep as 1,000 meters and then ascend to the surface to communicate data on water properties, such as temperature, salinity, and oxygen concentration, back to users via satellite. After verifying position and getting any new instructions, it dives again, repeating the cycle over and over.

The use of buoyancy propulsion is very energy efficient and allows mission periods of over 9 months and distances of thousands of kilometers all at a small fraction of the cost of using a ship to collect the same data.