Page 30: of Marine Technology Magazine (March 2007)


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30 MTR March 2007

Smart Start

Starting in 1989, the MIT Autonomous Underwater

Vehicle Laboratory has pioneered vehicle technology. The 14-year-long progression from the SeaSquirt to the

Bluefin AUVs has led to gains in capability, performance, and applicability. Capable of reaching the sea floor almost anywhere in the world and robust enough to be deployed in the Antarctic and the Labrador Sea, the Bluefin team has proven that AUVs can be reliable and affordable.

Founded in May of 1997 in Massachusetts, Bluefin

Robotics was formed from a core team of the

Autonomous Underwater Vehicles Laboratory at the

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and is still closely associated with it.

But as many high-tech companies across the world can attest, great ideas and products can drive the company only so far. To truly become a ubiquitous player in the international business market, it is necessary often to ally with funding to drive product and business development, as well as an individual or organization that can bring business structure and marketing savvy to help maximize a technologies' potential. In 2005, Bluefin found this in the form of Battelle and Dr. Brian Abraham. "My career has been based around the business aspect of technology, focusing mainly on military business," Abraham said. "At the time, Battelle was seeking to expand its business, and through the normal processes we quickly found that undersea technology was an interesting match for us technologically," Abraham, who was then working at

Battelle, said. "AUVs headed the short list, and what we found in the market space was a small, fragmented indus- try populated with small entrepreneurial companies.

When evaluating the company to take over, the only company that came close (to meeting our requirements) was Bluefin, and in May 2005 we took over."

At the time of the acquisition, Stephen E. Kelly, Senior

VP and GM of Battelle's National Security Division, said: "We were looking for a way to advance Battelle's capabil- ities in undersea systems development. Bluefin was look- ing to accelerate its growth in this emerging field. Both of our organizations are innovation-driven with emphasis on delivering real-world solutions for our clients." "Bluefin, like most AUV companies, was an R&D shop that was trying to transition to full manufacturing expert- ise," Abraham said. “What we've done is help to transi- tion the company — giving it the business and manufac- turing infrastructure needed to meet the government's requirements to fulfill operational contracts.”

Upon initial glance, it appears the plan has worked, as the Navy placed a big bet with Bluefin in 2005 to help push the process. A $9.2 million contract for Battlespace

Preparation Autonomous Undersea Vehicle (BPAUV) design and development — BPAUV is a system capable of bottom-mapping and gathering other oceanographic data — was awarded to support the Littoral Combat Ship

Mine Warfare Mission Module. Subsequent to that con- tract Bluefin was awarded an $18 million contract in 2006 for its 12-in. vehicles under the Surface Mine

Countermeasure Program. "This contract, and the subse-

Dr. Brian Abraham,

President & CEO,

Bluefin Robotics

While much of Bluefin’s business comes from the military sector, the company and its AUVs were conceived to serve for the military, science and the offshore oil & gas markets.

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Marine Technology

Marine Technology Reporter is the world's largest audited subsea industry publication serving the offshore energy, subsea defense and scientific communities.