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This startup is using AI to drive future of marine robots, raises $20M funding

Image credits: Vaarst

Bristol-based cloud robotics specialist Vaarst, which wants to drive the future of marine robotics, has closed $20 million in a Series B round.

The funding round was led by energy transition investor Legal & General Capital alongside the venture capital arm of the international energy company Equinor. Also, existing shareholder Foresight Group participated along with In-Q-Tel, Inc., the strategic investor for the US intelligence and defence communities and allied nations.

Vaarst will use the proceeds of this round to drive innovation through its AI-based technology, underwater 3D SLAM-based vision, and level 4 autonomy. Besides this, Vaarst will channel the funds to support its global expansion plans with a focus on Austin, Texas and Tokyo and an increased presence across Europe.

Investors cited the growth ambitions as a major factor in the investment decision, identifying the significant opportunity within the marine infrastructure sector, which comprises 10% of all global infrastructure.

Brian Allen, CEO at Vaarst, said: “We’re delighted to have gained the support of some of the industry’s leading businesses and investors to help us execute on our vision – to change the way we conduct over the horizon robotic operations. In doing so, we will not only help the marine industries become safer and more profitable, but will make the investment case for the energy transition more attractive, accelerating the journey to net-zero.”

John Bromley, Head of Clean Energy at Legal & General Capital said: “Rovco and Vaarst are exciting companies which will help further support the global energy transition by supporting the long-term integrity of maritime assets, reducing costs, improving safety and speeding up processes. We are excited by their huge potential internationally and the synergies this could bring as we look to the international expansion of our investment in renewable infrastructure such as offshore wind.”

Managed robotics for marine survey

Founded by Brian Allen in 2021, Vaarst intends to bring the latest innovation to the marine survey sector to help drive efficiencies. It makes them quicker, safer, and more cost-effective.

Vaarst is a leading provider of autonomy and cloud-managed robotics, which supports the offshore wind, wave & tidal, scientific, maritime security, and civil industries. It brings cutting-edge AI-based technology, underwater 3D SLAM-based vision, and level 4 autonomy to revolutionise how offshore industries manage marine infrastructure and improve asset integrity.

SubSLAM X2 is the first intelligent data collection system that delivers live 3D point clouds and navigation with millimetric precision. Now available for any ROV, AUV, underwater vehicle and soon any mobile robot around the globe.

Its sister company Rovco also benefits from the fundraise. It delivers this technology into the energy transition space, mainly focused on its use for subsea surveys in offshore wind and oil field decommissioning. The existing customers of the group include energy giants Iberdrola and SSE and ocean services provider, DeepOcean.

Reduces manpower and cost

Vaarst’s ground-breaking technology is designed to substantially lower the costs of marine operations and present seabed information simultaneously to any device in the world in real-time. At present, typical costs for a single service vessel working on a maritime asset can reach up to $10 million per month, which is both labour and cost-intensive. Vaarst’s technology can help reduce the number of people at sea while improving the data insights gained from offshore robots.

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