Electric exploration submarine vies to be SpaceX of sea

Robots are out front of the push to map the world's oceans.
Written by Greg Nichols, Contributing Writer

What do you get when a SpaceX alum and submarine engineer cofounds a tech company? A submersible that can boldly go where no one has gone before.

You're going to hear a lot more about ocean mapping in the coming years. Driven in part by the UN's Seabed 2030 program, which seeks to map the entire ocean within the decade, and partially by growing interest in offshore and near-shore sustainable energy infrastructure, it's a great age of ocean exploration.

Much of that work will be done by drones. The latest example, from a company called Bedrock, is a fully electric autonomous submarine and vertically-integrated seafloor data platform and service. The autonomous underwater vehicle combined with Mosaic, a universal survey cloud-based, data platform is designed for managing, accessing, and sharing marine survey data — from any ongoing or historical survey — which is now open for beta signups.

"The ocean is a key environment we need to deeply understand to save the planet from climate change and provide sustainable, renewable energy," said Anthony DiMare, co-founder and CEO of Bedrock. "But right now, we simply don't have the ability to act quickly because we lack simple, easy access to critical data on how the ocean works, starting with the seafloor. Bedrock's vertically-integrated seafloor data platform enabled by our proprietary AUV's, coupled with Mosaic, is the technology needed for this new function shift to change the way we work with our oceans."

The company was founded by Anthony DiMare and former SpaceX and submarine engineer Charles Chiau. Beyond the scientific merits of the endeavor, there's a large emerging market case for a mapping submarine. Offshore wind generation requires careful understanding of the surrounding sea floor, and drones are fast emerging as key tools for wind energy development as well as infrastructure maintenance.

According to Bedrock, it currently takes up to 12 months per survey to provide customers with usable commercial seafloor data. Bedrock's submersible and data platform will provide survey status and data up to 10 times faster than the current solution. 

"In order to understand the state of the ocean, we need a baseline set of measurable metrics. Bedrock collects the needed data to drive proactive actions in areas of strategic impact for progress and prevention, rather than just being reactive" said Charlie Chiau, CTO and co-founder of Bedrock. "Our platform's first and immediate application is to accelerate offshore renewable energy projects, which now need this ability for faster and repeatable discovery and monitoring of seafloor health and status."

A huge driver of acceleration in seabed mapping is the reduced need for large support ships, which manned submersibles and older technology require. Underwater drones, by contrast, can be deployed from small support ships and in many cases can be left to do their missions without much direct oversight, surfacing only when they need to be recovered.

The miniaturization of technology and the increasing use of automation is heralding a new era of sea exploration. 

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