Saildrone catches $ 100 million breeze to build more robot ships – TechCrunch

The ocean economy is growing in importance, and with it the need to map, understand and track the ocean itself grows. That’s exactly what Saildrone has done with its fleet of autonomous science vessels, and the company has now raised a whopping $ 100 million C round to pursue its ro-boat aspirations.

Saildrone’s boats – unmanned surface vehicles (USVs), as they call them – have been in continuous use for years now, making all kinds of interesting journeys that would be too dangerous or too tedious for a human crew. For example, earlier this month, one of the ships sailed directly into a hurricane for a NOAA project to better understand these increasingly frequent and severe storms. Good luck having someone brave 50ft waves and 120mph winds to collect data when there is a robotic option.

Having sailed half a million miles collectively, the Saildrone fleet is the most seasoned set of autonomous boats on the market, making it an attractive position in the market as marine intelligence becomes more important. Not only is knowledge of the state of the ocean at a given location useful for scientific and expected purposes, such as steering ships around storms, but the vast amounts of data systematically collected will help build a fundamental new understanding of it. complex aquatic ecosystem during climate change and a transition to sustainable aquaculture.

Saildrone is the go-to name for autonomous science boats. Others are tackling the new blue economy in other directions: the autonomous tugs and commercial boats of Sea Machines (which recently demonstrated a thousand mile navigation), while EcoDrone and Sea Proven seek to compete. with smaller or more customizable ships. And there’s a whole world apart from underwater drones that will zoom in around seabed mapping, like Bedrock’s.

But Saildrone is not standing still, or rather sitting at anchor. Its most recent vessel, the Surveyor, can spend a year at sea and chart the ocean floor more than two miles deep. They don’t come cheap, however, and if the company is to capture the “ocean realm intelligence” industry as much as possible, it will need to scale quickly. That’s what the hundred mil is for, presumably.

Cycle C was led by BOND and with participation from XN, Standard Investments, Emerson Collective, Crowley Maritime Corporation, Capricorn’s Technology Impact Fund, Lux Capital, Social Capital and Tribe Capital. The “data analytics teams” will be hired and they will put the money to good use for “go-to-market functions,” which I guess is VC jargon for boat building.

“The combination of the most proven and tested stand-alone ocean technology with the partnership of some of the world’s most experienced venture capitalists solidifies our leadership in the industry and enables our rapid growth path to meet the needs of our customers. customers, ”said the CEO and founder of Saildrone. Richard Jenkins in the press release. No doubt we’ll hear more of their missions in the years to come as their star rises.


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