Autonomous Robotics Ltd

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Autonomous Robotics Ltd
Industry Marine technology
Founded 2002
Headquarters Warminster, UK

Autonomous Robotics Ltd, previously GO Science Ltd, is a UK company developing an Autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) with an Ocean-bottom seismometer (OBS) application.

History

GO Science Ltd was founded in 2002[1] in Bristol, UK by a former BAe director of Underwater Systems,[2] and a founder of the Las Iguanas restaurant chain,[3] to develop a ‘ring wing’ Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV). Initial funding was from the South West Regional Development Agency (SWRDA) in 2006.[4] In November 2008 ICON Corporate Finance[5] raised significant investment (19.4%[6]) for GO Science from Kenda Capital, the manager of the Shell Technology Ventures Fund 1 (STVF)[7] with Kenda directors joining the board. The prototype vehicle was developed in the University of Bristol labs, then at Redhill Farm Business Park and later at Aztec West, outside Bristol. An office was opened at the SETsquared Business Acceleration Centre at the University of Bristol.

In September 2009 the company announced that it had won a £6m contract with an unnamed oil company.[8] This was later confirmed as Shell E&P, adding the challenge of a deepwater specification. Shell’s Chief Scientist Geophysics stated that the concept was to be tested "in earnest" for a few months whilst recognising the cost and acknowledging that "we’re happy to partner with others".[9] Shell provided the company with over £4 million of investment.[10] Subsequently GO Science announced it was under contract to "two very large companies".[11] In May 2012 the planned trials for Shell E&P consisted of a five vehicle trial in the Gulf of Mexico, USA, for the summer of 2012, with a larger trial of fifty vehicles in 2013.[12] Neither of these trials were undertaken.

Pressures on the company increased through 2012-13. STVF were looking critically at their investments, following a review of the portfolio companies by a senior Schlumberger executive in 2011. The GO Science accounts to the end of 2012 showed a loss of £0.3m.[13] In June 2013 the company applied for funding from the West of England Going for Growth campaign.[14] At the same time the company’s commitments to Shell E&P, with regard to the planned trials, were slipping. On 31 July 2013 GO Science Ltd was placed into administration at the request of STVF, due £2.5m with other creditors owed over £0.5m. Six of the thirteen staff were made redundant. However ten potential buyers approached the administrators, BDO, and in September 2013 Thalassa Holdings Ltd agreed to pay £3.6m for the company.[15] At the close of 2013 the GO Science shareholders expected to receive Thalassa shares if "Go Science’s principal customer contracts are re-activated."[16] Thalassa, which possesses expertise in OBS, has made the acquisition "on what appear to be extremely favourable terms" according to AimZine.[17] In 2014 it was revealed that Thalassa had paid rather less for GO Science, $2.9m, and registered the group in the British Virgin Islands.[18] Thalassa appointed a previous Managing Director of Saab Seaeye Ltd as CEO, the company was renamed Autonomous Robotics Ltd and relocated to Warminster, UK.[19]

Ocean Bottom Seismic

The initial markets investigated included military, environmental and exploration applications. In June 2008 the company committed to developing an application for seabed seismic sensors (Ocean Bottom Seismic, OBS) for oil and gas exploration.[20] A "swarm" of autonomous vehicles, as a self-deploying and -recovering sensor grid, offers potential efficiency savings over cables or populating a grid with sensors one-at-a-time by a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV). The ambition at this time was for the first production vehicles to be operational by 2010.[21] Thalassa have described this technology as having the "potential to have a massive impact on the way marine seismic data is collected".[22]

File:RHyVAU Southampton.jpg
GO Science RHyVAU on display at an exhibition in Southampton, UK

Autonomous Underwater Vehicle

GO Science's RHyVAU (Ring Hydro Vessel Agent Under-liquid) was an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), a type of unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV).

The design was that of a ‘ring wing’, a hydrofoil section rotated about the axis to form a toroid. Of fixed chord, the leading edge was also swept aft toward the top and bottom of the toroid. This form can generate lift in descending or ascending glide paths. With twin thrusters mounted inside the duct, the vehicle was very manoeuvrable in comparison to a torpedo type design, for a slight drag penalty. The first of a number of international patents was filed in October 2006.[23]

The prototype vehicle had an outside diameter of 533mm, 21" being a common torpedo size, 25 kg mass and a 1.1 kWh lithium polymer battery supplying two 2 kW thrusters and was capable of 8 knots.[24] Trials were conducted in enclosed waters around the UK and in the Netherlands. The production version was proposed to cost US$30–60,000 each, was designed to operate in depths in excess of 2,000 m[25] and "can organize itself into a "swarm" with up to 2,500 units in a coordinated autonomous group"[26] up to 100 km from the launch point.[27] As well as the powered version (called Contueor), the company considered glider versions (Indago), towed versions (Aspicere), and aerial versions (µRaptor).[28]

File:Autonomous Robotics Ltd flying node October 2015.png
ARL Flying Node presented in October 2015

Autonomous Robotics have been working on a more conventionally shaped AUV for the OBS application, and presented a full scale model of the new vehicle in 2015. ARL predicts a tenfold improvement in the deployment and recovery rates over ROV placement, with the intention to use 3,500 nodes in a system, deploying for up to 60 days in up to 3,000m of water.[29]

References

  1. Incorporation date 10 October 2002
  2. Whitehead, Tony, "Neither Fish Nor Fowl", Business Link South West Interview, April 2008
  3. Directors
  4. "Exploring Oceans, Waterways, Pipelines and Structures with Energy Efficient Robots", 13 February 2006, www.goscience.co.uk accessed 13 April 2012
  5. Track record – deals in 2008
  6. Investor's Champion - Thalassa Holdings 20130924, 24 September 2013
  7. Shell Technology Ventures Fund
  8. Page, Lewis,"'Ring-wing' robo-sub smart swarm lands £6m oil deal", The Register, 9 September 2009
  9. Duey, Rhonda,"‘Flying’ Nodes Shift Marine Seismic Paradigm", E&P Magazine, 1 December 2011
  10. Financial Statement 31 December 2011
  11. Ribbeck, Michael,"GOING FOR GROWTH: Technology firm Go Science needs funding to develop its new ideas", The Bristol Post, 14 June 2013
  12. "Deepwater", p.14, Shell E&P, May 2012
  13. "Thalassa to Buy Go Science Limited", Offshore Energy Today, 23 September 2013
  14. Ribbeck
  15. Frost, Richard, "Creditors face anxious wait over Go Science", Insider Media, 28 October 2013
  16. "Proposed Acquisition of the GO Science Business", Thalassa Holdings Ltd, 23 September 2013
  17. Investor's Champion, accessed 17 December 2013
  18. Thalassa 2013 Results, accessed 23 April 2014
  19. Thalassa Appoints New CEO of GO Science Subsea World News, 30 June 2014
  20. "Breakthrough Ocean Sensor Grid Technology By GO Science Offers Low Cost, High Fidelity Seismic & CSEM Surveys", June 2008, www.goscience.co.uk accessed 13 April 2012
  21. Whitehead
  22. Chairman of Thalassa statement, September 2013 Proposed Acquisition of the GO Science Business
  23. US 2008/0264323
  24. Shelley, Tom, "Ring wing allows tight manoeuvring", Eureka Magazine, February 2009
  25. Investor's Champion - Thalassa Holdings 20130924
  26. Duey
  27. "Deepwater"
  28. "GO Science Releases RHyVAU, A New UUV Class For Maritime Remote Sensing" (August 2007), "µRaptor EFX19" (June 2008) and "µRaptor SPL19" (June 2008), www.goscience.co.uk accessed 13 April 2012
  29. Autonomous Robotics Ltd, SEG press release 19 October 2015, accessed 20 October 2015; Subsea World News, 20th October 2015

External links