Project to demo autonomous biofouling inspection robots secures grant

Project to demo autonomous biofouling inspection robots secures grant

Berkeley Marine Robotics (BMR) has been awarded an innovation research grant (SBIR) by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to conduct R&D and field demonstration of an autonomous underwater swarm robotic system. The system will be able to perform rapid automated inspections under ships to assess hull biofouling and detect invasive species.

Rising water temperatures from climate change has exacerbated the extent of fouling. As modern ships need to maintain their speeds to reach destinations on tight schedules, the hull fouling leads to increased fuel consumption and thereby higher greenhouse gas emissions. Hull-fouling can also include marine invasive species that hurt coastal ecosystem near ports and cause negative economic impact in sensitive regions.

BMR is working on an innovative system of autonomous swarm control and underwater wireless communication to enable fast, low-cost, and automated inspections of all ships coming into a port.

The unmanned system will measure and track hull-fouling levels to optimise cleaning schedule and increase coating performance.

Simultaneously, the system scan can flag invasive species to the ports and thereby reduce costly delays in manual spot checks. BMR’s objective is to enable shipping operators in reducing their fuel costs and to help them comply with International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) stipulated goal for carbon emission reduction.

This project’s technical lead is BMR’s co-founder and CTO Alexandre Immas, a PhD in marine robotics from UC Berkeley with engineering degrees from École Polytechnique and experience in offshore deep-sea wind turbines. BMR is led by co-founder CEO Sushil Tyagi, a Wharton MBA in finance and strategic management, and previously a marine engineer at Exponent after degrees in naval architecture, marine physics, and ocean engineering from I.I.T. Delhi, RSMAS, and UC Berkeley.

As grant awardee, BMR meets the NSF program’s objectives to support innovative technologies that show promise of socio-economic impact. Grant is awarded to businesses with scientific solutions that have potential for commercial success and undergo rigorous merit-based review process.