In 2012, Roy Torgensen was sailing through the waters of Papua New Guinea on an expedition with an epic objective: to search for and document an Australian military transport plane that disappeared on 11 September 1945, just 9 days after the end of the Second World War. During the trip, it became clear to Torgensen that “having a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) would greatly enhance these kinds of endeavours.” Four years later, in Murcia, Spain, Nido Robotics came into being.
“I started searching for a solution but couldn’t find anything that was cost-effective, and portable and robust enough to operate in remote places. It eventually became clear that we had to go ahead and build our own ROVs in order to get what we wanted,” explains Torgersen, CEO & Founder of Nido Robotics. Together with Enrique González, “who could immerse himself in solving the technical problems while I focused on the product,” they created a startup to develop underwater ROVs.
The underwater robots manufactured by Nido Robotics allow users to “perform inspections, data collection work, maintenance or research activities efficiently, at very competitive prices, and without involving human being” The compact size of their ROVs allows them to enter areas where divers cannot access and inspect. Aquaculture, professional diving, thermal power plants, underwater research and routine inspections in ports and marinas are some of the contexts in which Nido Robotics can help.
“Innovation is about looking at your day-to-day with curiosity and trying to find ways to make your existing processes, products and services better. It’s about being relentless and tireless in the search for continuous improvements”
A sea of functionalities to study deep waters
At Nido Robotics, they use everything related to robotics to build their ROVs, details Torgersen: “Mechatronics, electronics, sensors, software… We also manufacture a lot of the robots ourselves so we need to use manufacturing technology like 3D printing, CNC machining, laser cutting and so on.”
The name of their underwater robot is Sibiu (named after “Seaview”, the submarine featured in the motion picture Voyage to the Bottom of Sea). This robot “can dive to depths of 300 metres and relay live video through a cable to the surface, where it’s connected to a control station.” The station is fitted with a gamepad controller “that allows you to fully control the robot and any payloads it may be carrying,” adds the CEO.
For example, they have sensors that measure chemical parameters like Ph, conductivity and dissolved oxygen; other systems that collect water samples for laboratory testing; a sonar that creates 3D images (for instance, of the seabed); and a system that allows the robot to do basic cleaning tasks and other jobs. “We are adding more functionalities every day,” claims Torgersen. Ultimately, the functionalities are determined by the customer’s requirements: “Our ROVs are like the PC that everyone uses on a daily basis, but each user has different software installed”. In fact, Sibiu can also be used for leisure purposes or by enthusiasts.
A robot to dive all over the world
Nido Robotics already has customers in a large list of European countries, such as Spain, Germany and Denmark, as well as countries like South Korea, Chile and the USA. “We have always seen ourselves as a company with global ambitions and we want to expand into other areas of Latin America in 2019, and North America and Asia in 2020,” explains Torgersen.
Nido Robotics has been scouted in 2018 by our Enel Innovation Hub Europe based in Madrid. In Spain “we jointly started to cooperate to apply a series of modifications and adaptations that allowed us to amplify the potential uses cases for application on Thermal Generation assets”, says the CEO.. Now, we can carry out more underwater tasks without involving divers, reducing time of intervention and allowing power plant staff to carry out inspections every time it is needed, and it has also been positive for the Spanish startup. “The Enel approach to open innovation is a great way of working with startups, as a customer instead of a business accelerator or corporate VC. At the end of the day, the ‘holy grail’ of startups is the product-market fit, and what better way to achieve it than to work with a large global customer,” Torgersen affirms.
Now, they are developing a third ROV that will be “the Tesla of the ocean,” thanks to “a set of features that will eventually allow our robots to become fully autonomous,” he says. With Nido Robotics, we’re ready to take a tour of the underwater world and travel ‘Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea’. Let’s dive in!