A robotic marine vehicle capable of collecting water-quality and other data autonomously
Jeffrey Laut (with the help of Professor Mauricio Porfiri)
In 2016 Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Maurizio Porfiri and post-doctoral researcher Jeff Laut caught the attention of PowerBridgeNY (a New York State Energy Research and Development Authority-sponsored proof-of-concept center that leverages clean energy innovations originating in university research labs) with their small-scale autonomous robotic vehicle, which is able to collect data on water quality, eliminating the need for a full-sized boat and dedicated crew and making the process magnitudes more efficient and cost-effective. Naming their enterprise Manifold Robotics, they used PowerBridgeNY funding to talk to potential customers, assess the competitive landscape, refine their prototype, and develop a go-to-market strategy.
In early 2018, they received a second round of PowerBridgeNY funding: a $50,000 Ignition Grant, which, as the name implies, is to be used to take their startup to the next level. “We are already differentiated from our competitors because our vehicle is exceptionally customizable,” Laut said, explaining that in addition to water quality sensors, customers can outfit the boat with their own sensors and hardware tailored to specific research needs. “It’s also trustworthy and robust no matter what the payload – a must when a customer is equipping it with expensive sonar and other devices.” He intends to use the Ignition Grant to differentiate the company further and to develop intellectual property such as computer vision algorithms that will enable the craft to navigate even better, with the ultimate goal of becoming a ubiquitous presence in the world of water-data collection.