Surfbee — Next Generation of Flexible Unmanned Marine & Aquatic Robotics
New AHA Partner: Firetail Robotics is setting out to change the perception of what value looks like in the autonomous and aquatic sensing industry through its Surfbee platform. FireTail has recently brought on a new CEO, Evan Leahy to help drive the next phase of Surfbee’s impressive growth. Based at the Albury headquarters of Firetail and within walking distance of the mighty Murray, Evan is a qualified hydrographer with an extensive track record in the industry.
Founder Jack Hurley says “It’s a great position to be in that Surfbee is now able to operate as a significant operation in its own right. Whilst the early development of the Surfbee is perhaps one of my career highlights, I felt it was the right time to bring in an expert with deep expertise in the water industry and the connections to take Surfbee to the next level.”
What makes the Surfbee unique as an aquatic and maritime robot?
Evan noted that across his years of working in the water industry it became apparent that difficult water monitoring duties got put on hold or stopped altogether due to WHS concerns, complexity of deployment and cost. This sparked an interest in finding ways to satisfy these issues.
Evan said “As a Hydrographer, ADCP gaugings were a part of my weekly duties using existing deployment methods e.g. kayak, manned boat, remote controlled vessel, wading or a wire. Every deployment method has its strengths and weaknesses and I started to conceptualize and design ways to minimise the weaknesses and add other features to enhance the use of remote controlled vessels.”
This led to various prototypes and hundreds of hours of testing over a few years. The end result was the Flow Seeker — the workhorse of the Surfbee family — a vessel designed around excelling in conditions a hydrographer encounters 90% of the time while taking flow measurements. With the design intentions focusing on being portable, manoeuvrable, fast enough for most conditions and offering autonomous features like position hold and automated transects.
On water testing
In vehicle mount
Adam Wiggins, South East Water Monitoring Manager from WaterNSW said of their recent collaboration with Surfbee:
“WaterNSW was looking for a remote platform to deploy ADCPs that would be suited to Australian conditions. It had to be light, and easily deployable and not add too many additional steps to our current workflows. The initial Surfbee product ticked many of those boxes straight away, with improved handling and minimal downtime and easy to source spares when required. The team at FireTail Robotics have been very receptive to our feedback and look to be developing a really good package that will deliver additional functionality than is available on the market currently as well as providing efficiency and most of all good safety outcomes.”