Container shipping firm Crowley Maritime Corp. is investing in a startup firm that makes robotic boats used to collect data on ocean mapping, weather conditions, and law enforcement, saying that information will be increasingly valuable for applications in the growing offshore wind sector.
Jacksonville, Fla.-based Crowley invested an unspecified amount as part of a $100 million venture capital round for Saildrone Inc., the Alameda, California firm that defines its mission as sustainably exploring, mapping, and monitoring the ocean. The “series C” round was led by the technology investment firm Bond, with participation from XN, Standard Investments, Emerson Collective, Capricorn’s Technology Impact Fund, Lux Capital, Social Capital, and Tribe Capital. It brings the firm’s total investment raised to $190 million.
Saildrone collects data by building uncrewed surface vehicles (USVs) that are loaded with sensors and embedded machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) technology. The vessels combine wind-powered propulsion with solar-powered meteorological and oceanographic sensors, allowing them to operate 24 hours a day for a mission of up to 12 months in length without ever stopping to refuel or exchange crew members.
Moving under sail power, the vessels reach speeds of two to six miles per hour, navigating autonomously between prescribed waypoints while under constant supervision by human pilots via satellite. The firm’s USVs include models of 23 feet, 33 feet, and 72 feet in length, and the entire fleet to date has spent more than 15,000 days at sea sailing over 500,000 nautical miles.
The data collected by those boats includes oceanographic and atmospheric data and high-resolution ocean mapping, as well as marine domain awareness (MDA) and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) used in law enforcement and homeland security functions such as illegal fishing policing, counter-narcotics operations, and marine sanctuary protection.
While the firm’s vessels have proven their ability to collect good data, they have their work cut out for them in an effort to survey the planet’s vast oceans. According to Saildrone, the Earth’s oceans cover some 140 million square miles, with 113 million square miles still remaining unmapped. To tackle that challenge, Saildrone is partnering with the members of Seabed 2030, an international effort to map the complete ocean floor by the end of this decade.
Crowley said its partnership with Saildrone aligns with its ambition to be the most sustainable and innovative maritime and logistics solutions company in the Americas by 2025. “Crowley is proud to join Saildrone in advancing technology for gathering and analyzing climate, mapping and maritime security data for the benefit of our environment and communities,” Tom Crowley, the company’s chairman and CEO, said in a release.
We're proud to start our strategic partnership with @saildrone, supporting the advancement of uncrewed surface vessels (USVs). This aligns with our ambition to be the most sustainable & innovative #logistics solutions company in the Americas by 2025.https://t.co/GBvk1RpVSF pic.twitter.com/Llx7ZJZ2k5— Crowley Maritime (@CrowleyMaritime) October 19, 2021
Saildrone has closed $100M #SeriesC #funding to meet the rapidly growing market demand for comprehensive ocean data! We are thrilled to welcome our new partners on this journey @BondCapital, XN, Standard Investments, @EmCollective, and @CrowleyMaritime!https://t.co/lqwiCYAHLO— Saildrone, Inc. (@saildrone) October 18, 2021