Julie Angus, CEO of Open Ocean Robotics, is the winner of the 2021 B.C. Cleantech Industry Icon award. (Photo: Open Ocean Robotics)

Island robotics company charting new course for ocean exploration

Open Ocean Robotics sees endless opportunities in their solar-power, remote-operated vessels

When Open Ocean Robotics’ boats are out on the seas, they’re manoeuvring their way to areas unreachable by manned vessels. They do it without fear of capsizing and with no gas powering the motor.

They do have a driver, but instead of peering out over the bow, this boat’s captain looks into a computer screen at the Vancouver Island Technology Park.

And as most start-ups see the sky as the limit, the Saanich company’s co-founders and married couple, Julie and Colin Angus, are reaching for the depths. Open Oceans Robotics thinks its uncrewed, autonomous and solar-powered boats could be key to understanding our vastly unexplored oceans, enforcing illegal fishing and so much more.

“We really don’t understand our oceans, 80 per cent of our oceans are unexplored, unmapped, unobserved,” said Julie, adding that the biodiverse oceans cover most of the Earth and are vital to human life.

On the outside, the vessels’ unique design allows them to self-right so they never capsize — which is pretty important as they’re cutting through the water at up to 18 knots. Solar panels on the deck power the propulsion, sensors and communications (radio, satellite and cellular). Energy storage in a battery bank allows the boats to theoretically stay out on the water for months at a time.

“It needs to have really high performance, it has to move well with minimal energy input,” Julie said. “You’re not going to get any more energy from the sun, but you can maximize what you do with that energy.”

The boats constantly beam information back to the Technology Park in real time while on the water through cloud sharing. Julie said the boats are already involved in researching whales and marine mammals, fish populations and ocean-environment conditions, such as salinity, temperature and algae bloom locations.

The drone-like boats are also equipped with several sonar functions, so they could locate whales and alert nearby ships to slow down, map the ocean floor through hydrographic surveying so ships don’t hit bottom and determine vertical water currents to see where oil could be spreading in the event of a spill.

Colin Angus, chief technology officer and co-founder of Open Ocean Robotics at the company’s Vancouver Island Technology Park location. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)

Julie said they want to make collecting ocean data sustainable and accessible to everyone.

“It’s something that really drives us as a company and us as a team because we know that we’re in a cutting-edge area of technology that’s innovating in a number of ways,” she said.

“This has the ability to really make an impact in how we protect our ocean, how we understand them and how we operate sustainably on them.”

Julie and Colin’s inspiration for the company came from when they crossed the Atlantic on a small boat, braving two hurricanes along the voyage.

Colin said using their boats for things like research purposes can be 95 per cent cheaper than using a crewed ship.

“It’s really quite exciting to see what potential there is and the number of different things the boats can do,” he said.

The couple sees a big future in enforcing Canada’s coastline, which is the world’s longest.

“You can imagine a fleet of boats like (ours) patrolling Canadian waters around the entire perimeter, getting that full situational awareness,” Colin said.

“We’re working on a way of protecting our oceans, but unless you have a way to enforce them, it’s meaningless,” Julie said.

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

READ: CEO of Saanich’s Open Ocean Robotics wins B.C. Cleantech award


Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:jake.romphf@blackpress.ca. Follow us on Instagram.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Saanich

 

Colin Angus, chief technology officer and co-founder of Open Ocean Robotics, at the company’s Vancouver Island Technology Park location. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)

Colin Angus, chief technology officer and co-founder of Open Ocean Robotics, at the company’s Vancouver Island Technology Park location. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)

Just Posted

Allayah Yoli Thomas had recently turned 12 years old when she died of a suspected drug overdose April 15. (Courtesy of Adriana Londono)
Suspected overdose death of Saanich girl, 12, speaks to lack of supports, says mom

Allayah Yoli Thomas was found dead by her friend the morning of April 15

The Malahat SkyWalk will open to visitors in July 2021. (Malahat SkyWalk photo)
Malahat SkyWalk will open to visitors this July

Highly anticipated attraction will take guests 250m above sea level

Port Alberni RCMP are investigating a homicide on Third Avenue. (SUSAN QUINN / Alberni Valley News)
RCMP investigating homicide in Port Alberni apartment

Investigators are still trying to determine the identity of the deceased

A man who allegedly spat at and yelled racial slurs at an Asian family was arrested for hate-motivated assault Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man arrested for allegedly spitting, yelling anti-Asian racial slurs at a mother and kids

The man was arrested for hate-motivated assault near Quadra Elementary School Tuesday

Victoria police said Wednesday that they continue to look for Belinda Ann Cameron, who was last seen on May 5, 2005. (Photo courtesy of VicPD)
Victoria police still looking for Belinda Cameron who was last seen 16 years ago

Cameron was reported missing on June 4, 2005, and her case is deemed suspicious

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Clash between loggers, activists halts forestry operations over Fairy Creek

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

James Taylor, a Saanich resident and member of the Curve Lake First Nation, walked all over Greater Victoria on May 5 in honour of Red Dress Day and the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. (Devon Bidal/News staff)
Indigenous man walks Greater Victoria to honour missing and murdered women and girls

James Taylor’s march among many ways Islanders marked Red Dress Day

More than 6,000 camping reservations in British Columbia were cancelled as a result of a provincial order limiting travel between health regions. (Unsplash)
1 in 4 camping reservations cancelled in B.C. amid COVID-19 travel restrictions

More than 6,000 BC Parks campsite reservations for between April 19 and May 25 have been revoked

B.C. average home price and sales level to 2023, showing steep drop in sales expected next year. (Central 1)
Forecast calls for B.C. home sales to ‘explode,’ then drop off

Average price to rise another 10% in 2021, credit unions say

Illegal goods seized in the simultaneous April 23 busts in Saanich and Sooke. (Courtesy of West Shore RCMP)
RCMP drug busts net trucks, cocaine, cash and Hells Angels gear

Simultaneous searches coordinated between West Shore, Saanich and Sooke police

Members of Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. (File photo)
B.C.-wide #DayOfMusic to feature 100-plus free virtual concerts May 15

‘Our colleagues across the province have figured out new ways to perform and connect,’ VSO boss says

Two passengers were recently fined thousands of dollars after they faked their pre-flight COVID-19 test results. (Paul Clarke/Black Press)
2 passengers in Canada fined thousands for faking pre-flight COVID-19 tests

The government issued a warning Thursday to others thinking of doing the same – do it and you’ll be ordered to pay

The Vancouver Island Regional Correctional Centre on Wilkinson Road in Saanich. (Black Press Media file photo)
Police watchdog investigating after man found unresponsive at Saanich jail

Man was in Victoria police custody the day before being found

Victoria police is asking for the public’s assistance in identifying this suspect after they allegedly robbed a Douglas Street bank on Tuesday. (Photo courtesy of VicPD)
Police seek identity of suspect who allegedly robbed Victoria bank

Officers were called to a bank in the 1000-block of Douglas Street just after 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday

Most Read