Boeing heads to sea with latest unmanned tech acquisition

The Boeing Co. has made an acquisition that adds a seaborne robot powered by waves and the sun to its growing portfolio of autonomous vehicles that the company says will stretch from the seabed to space.

The Boeing Co. this week signed a deal to acquire a small California company that makes an unmanned vehicle that travels on the surface of the water and is powered by the waves and solar energy.

The acquisition of Liquid Robotics is part Boeing’s strategy to grow its autonomous capabilities that can stretch from the seabed to space, the company said.

The terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. The company was represented by the investment bank Houlihan Lokey.

Liquid Robotics and Boeing have been working together since 2014 when they began integrating sensors onto a version of the Wave Glider. They developed a version known as the Sensor Hosting Autonomous Remote Craft or SHARC.

The vehicle connects intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities and integrates with satellites, manned and unmanned aircraft and surface and subsurface crafts.

Some of the applications of the Wave Glider include anti-submarine warfare, surface vessel detection, illegal fishing, monitoring Marine Protected Areas and environmental assessments. There also are applications in the oil and gas markets.

Here is a promotional video Liquid Robotics produced.

Boeing has been building its autonomous vehicle capabilities since at least 2008 when it acquired Insitu Inc., which made a small tactical UAV known as ScanEagle. It also has invested in other autonomous vehicles such as the undersea Echo Voyager, a 51-foot long vehicle that can be manned or unmanned.

Earlier this year, the company opened a research laboratory in St. Charles, Mo., to work on how autonomous air, land and sea vehicles can collaborate and work together. The lab tests hardware and software, including sensors, navigation and data links.