UNMANNED

Lockheed venture arm invests in undersea drone maker Ocean Aero

Lockheed Martin's venture capital arm has invested in San Diego-based unmanned underwater vehicle maker Ocean Aero in a move that continues a streak of defense contractors showing more interest in that field.

Terms of Lockheed Martin Ventures' investment were not disclosed and the organization becomes Ocean Aero's second significant investor alongside Teledyne Technologies, which first partnered with Ocean Aero in 2014.

Defense contractors have shown increased interest in the unmanned underwater vehicle arena through acquisitions and other investments in anticipation of growth. Boeing purchased Liquid Robotics in late 2016 and is pursuing the Navy's upcoming Extra Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicle contract in partnership with Huntington Ingalls Industries. General Dynamics acquired Bluefin Robotics in early 2016 and L3 Technologies has made a trio of unmanned-related purchases this year.

Ocean Aero's portfolio includes its Submaran class of unmanned underwater and surface vehicles for ocean observation and data collection missions. The Submaran S10 model is approximately 13-feet long, 8-feet high and weighs roughly 280 pounds.

Submaran vehicles are powered by wind and solar energy and designed to travel up to 660 feet below the ocean for months at a time, according to Ocean Aero.

Ocean Aero is Lockheed Martin Ventures' third investment this year so far in a run that includes a partnership with small satellite manufacturer Terran Orbital announced in June.

Lockheed and Ocean Aero collaborated on a unmanned technology demonstration last year at the Naval Technology Exercise at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport, R.I. Their partnership seeks to further build the ability to configure teams of autonomous systems for missions.

About the Author

Ross Wilkers is a senior staff writer for Washington Technology. He can be reached at rwilkers@washingtontechnology.com. Follow him on Twitter: @rosswilkers. Also find and connect with him on LinkedIn.

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