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Boeing buys Liquid Robotics to boost sea robots

Wave Glider
Liquid Robotics’ Wave Glider floats on the surface of the ocean, but it’s propelled by a wave-powered undersea glider. (Liquid Robotics Photo)

The Boeing Co. says it has agreed to acquire Liquid Robotics, its teammate in a years-long effort to create surfboard-sized robots that can use wave power to roam the seas.

The acquisition is expected to help Boeing create military communication networks that can transmit information autonomously from the sea to satellites via Sensor Hosting Autonomous Remote Craft, or SHARCs.

Liquid Robotics was founded in 2007 and currently has about 100 employees in California and Hawaii. Once the deal is completed, the company will become a subsidiary of Boeing. The arrangement is similar to the one that applies to Insitu, a Boeing subsidiary that is headquartered in Bingen, Wash., and manufactures ScanEagle military-grade drones.

Just as the fixed-wing ScanEagle drones can gather and transmit data while they’re airborne, SHARCs can monitor maritime operations and send the information back via satellite to their handlers. Boeing also makes a 50-ton underwater robot called Echo Voyager that can explore the deep sea for six months at a time, as well as two smaller unmanned undersea vehicles. The SHARCs can serve as communication relays for those undersea robots.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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