Sea Machines raises $15 million to speed up development of self-piloting technologies

Boston-based Sea Machines Robotics, a developer of autonomous systems for ocean-going vessels and workboats, has closed a new $15 million financing round with significant participation by Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII), America’s largest military shipbuilding company and a provider of professional services.

This investment in Sea Machines marks one of the largest venture rounds for an advanced technology company serving the marine and maritime industries.

As explained, the strategic investment and associated partnership with HII will accelerate the deployment of self-piloting technologies in the rising market of unmanned naval boats and ships and is a continuation of HII’s expansion in the rapidly growing autonomous and unmanned maritime systems industry. 

 “Our ability to secure significant financing during a challenging economic environment is an indicator of investors’ confidence in our ability to reshape and retool the marine industries with modern-day, advanced technologies,” Michael G. Johnson, CEO, Sea Machines, commented.

“This investment represents our commitment to advanced innovation and competencies across the unmanned systems market,” Andy Green, executive vice president and president of technical solutions, HII, said.

 “Sea Machines is making significant strides in the unmanned surface vessel (USV) industry. We want to invest in their growth and continue to form complementary partnerships across this key domain.”

Sea Machines’ autonomous systems increase productivity of vessel operations by assuming active domain perception and navigation duties. A Sea Machines system works under the command of a human operator and, by taking on the long duration and often repetitive control duties, it boosts the predictability and precision of operations while lowering the risk of fatigue-related incidents. The technology also enables new capabilities on water, such as the onshore command of remote offshore vessels. 

“We are entering a phase of growth and universal interest like what was witnessed in the self-driving automotive space starting five years ago, but the difference being that marine self-piloting systems are already operationally deployed. We expect to see broad adoption of autonomous technology on water ahead of that on roads,” Johnson further said.

Since launching its first family of products in late 2018, Sea Machines has deployed systems on vessels serving a multitude of sectors, from large cargo vessels — such as the previously disclosed program with A.P. Moller-Maersk — to U.S.-flag ATBs and data-collecting survey boats, oil-spill response craft, search-and-rescue (SAR), patrol and crew transfer vessels. Sea Machines systems are now operating in four of the world’s eight geographical regions and this reach is enabled through a dealer-partner program with established marine electronics integrators.  

The recent investment round was led by Accomplice with further participation by Toyota AI Ventures, Brunswick Corp. (through investment partner TechNexus), Geekdom Fund, NextGen Venture Partners, Eniac VC, LaunchCapital and others.

“Five percent of global GDP is directly fueled by the marine economy and the industry is poised for technology innovation,” Ryan Moore, partner, Accomplice, pointed out.

“Michael and the Sea Machines team have achieved significant progress and this financing underscores our strong position.”