Berkeley Marine Robotics Awarded a Competitive R&D Grant by the National Science Foundation

Berkeley Marine Robotics Inc. (BMR) has been awarded an innovation research grant (SBIR) by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to conduct R&D and field demonstration of an autonomous underwater swarm robotic system that can perform rapid automated inspections under ships to assess hull biofouling and detect invasive species.

Berkeley Marine Robotics Inc. (BMR) has been awarded an innovation research grant (SBIR) by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to conduct R&D and field demonstration of an autonomous underwater swarm robotic system that can perform rapid automated inspections under ships to assess hull biofouling and detect invasive species.


Global maritime industry has tens of thousands of ships carrying goods to ports around the world. Since ancient times, ship hull biofouling - accumulation of marine growth - has been an unavoidable bane of ocean voyages. With rise in water temperatures from climate change, the extent of fouling can increase. As modern ships need to maintain their speeds to reach destinations on tight schedules, the hull fouling leads to increased fuel consumption and thereby higher greenhouse gas emissions. Hull-fouling can also include marine invasive species that hurt coastal ecosystem near ports and cause negative economic impact in sensitive regions.

BMR is working on an innovative system of autonomous swarm control and underwater wireless communication to enable fast, low-cost, and automated inspections of all ships coming into a port. The unmanned system will measure and track hull-fouling levels to optimize cleaning schedule and increase coating performance. Simultaneously, the system scan can flag invasive species to the ports and thereby reduce costly delays in manual spot checks. BMR's objective is to enable shipping operators in reducing their fuel costs and to help them comply with International Maritime Organization's (IMO) stipulated goal for carbon emission reduction.

This project's technical lead is BMR's co-founder and CTO Alexandre Immas, a PhD in marine robotics from UC Berkeley with engineering degrees from École Polytechnique and experience in offshore deep-sea wind turbines. BMR is led by co-founder CEO Sushil Tyagi, a Wharton MBA in finance and strategic management, and previously a marine engineer at Exponent after degrees in naval architecture, marine physics, and ocean engineering from I.I.T. Delhi, RSMAS, and UC Berkeley.

As grant awardee, BMR meets the NSF program's objectives to support innovative technologies that show promise of socio-economic impact. Grant is awarded to businesses with scientific solutions that have potential for commercial success and undergo rigorous merit-based review process.

About the National Science Foundation Grants:
America's Seed Fund powered by NSF awards $200 million annually to startups and small businesses, transforming scientific discovery into products and services with commercial and societal impact. https://seedfund.nsf.gov/

For more information about Berkeley Marine Robotics, please visit https://berkeleymarinerobotics.com/ and follow the company on Linkedin.

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