Australia’s biggest subsea robotics centre opens in Perth

AI robotics innovator Advanced Navigation has unveiled what it says is Australia’s largest subsea robotics centre to accelerate production of its “breakthrough” underwater navigation and robotic technologies.

The company, which counts Main Sequence Ventures and former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull as investors, said the 5.5 acre facility in Western Australia will be used to grow its burgeoning underwater AI division.

Located in the Perth Suburb of Balcatta, the new facility is split between manufacturing and R&D facilities, allowing Advanced Navigation to both ramp up production and continue research into subsea navigation and robotics technologies.

It also contains testing facilities that replicate several marine environments to “ensure reliable performance and the highest quality production” of its fully-autonomous subsea robot Hydrus and other underwater technologies, the company said.

Advance Navigation’s fully-autonomous subsea robot, Hydrus. Image: Advanced Navigation

Advanced Navigation launched its Hydrus drone with the backing of the Andrew and Nicola Forrest’s Minderoo Foundation in April 2022 to make data capture simple for research, surveys and other exploration, also winning the company the Industry 4.0 category of the InnovationAus 2022 Awards for Excellence.

The subsea robot brings AI and navigational, sonar, propulsion and data capture technologies together, giving its advanced obstacle detection and collision avoidance, even in challenging underwater conditions.

Advanced Navigation chief executive and co-founder Xavier Orr said the new subsea centre would help the company “meet the growing demand for high-grade underwater data, bringing new and existing solutions to market far more quickly and efficiently”.

The company’s “break-through” underwater navigation and robotics technologies are already being used for a range of applications, including in support of research, acquaculture and offshore renewable energy.

“Now more than ever, there is a need to open up the earth’s oceans, to make data and knowledge more accessible to global communities, research institutions and governments. Western Australia has always been an exploration hub for ocean discoveries,” Mr Orr said on Tuesday.

Mr Orr, who launched Advanced Navigation with Chris Shaw in 2011, said the company is also planning to triple the size of its subsea team, a step that would be helped by the recent investment in the robotics centre.

Justin Geldard, a coastal and ocean researcher at the University of Western Australia’s Ocean Institute, said it is “exciting to see Advanced Navigation continue to grow its team of engineers in Western Australia”.

“At UWA we are researching how natural and artificial reef structures can protect coastlines by dissipating wave energy – Hydrus is a key tool in mapping and surveying these underwater structures,” he said.

The subsea centre comes less than six months after Advanced Navigation raised $108 million through its Series B funding round, including from US private equity fund KKR and deep tech venture capital firm Alpha Intelligence Capital.

Existing investors Main Sequence Ventures, former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, In-Q-Tel, and Our Innovation Fund have also helped bring Advanced Navigation’s lifetime capital raise to more than $134 million.

Advanced Navigation also offers a range of AI-based navigation systems for land, sea, air and space applications that are designed and manufactured in Australia and used by the likes of NASA, Tesla, Google and Apple.

Its research centres in several major cities across the country each focus on a specific technology type. The Brisbane centre, for instance, is used for aerial drone technology, while its Canberra centre researches photonic and laser technology.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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