Meet Aquanaut: A new deep sea diving robot from Nauticus

Aquanaut regularly inspects and cleans nets and litter to protect fish populations.
Nergis Firtina
Nauticus Robotics’ Aquanaut robot.
Nauticus Robotics’ Aquanaut robot.


Nauticus Robotics has rolled up its sleeves to design a shape-changing submersible robot - Aquanaut.

“What NASA taught us is to put together robust software autonomy with a capable hardware morphology and deploy it in a remote setting,” said Nic Radford, founder, chairman, president, and CEO of Houston-based Nauticus Robotics Inc. During his 14 years at Johnson, Radford was, among other roles, deputy project manager and chief engineer for the humanoid robot Robonaut 2. More than 20 engineers and other NASA employees work on the 80-person team that Radford has already formed.

“Even if you’re putting it on the space station and controlling it from the ground, there’s no high-speed data network. Talking to the space station is more akin to using dial-up.” Radford also underlines that communication was limited because the operator is far away, whether in space or at sea. As NASA reported, the robot had to understand and sense its environment, navigate obstacles and manipulate them.

Meet Aquanaut: A new deep sea diving robot from Nauticus

With the new Aquanaut's design, unlike a robot in space, deep-sea robots can be connected to operators with a cable to allow high-speed data transfer and close control. But Radford said this comes at the price of staffing and operating a huge support vessel on the surface, to the tune of about $100,000 and 70 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per day. Nauticus also eliminates the situation of operating robots on a distant shore with minimal supervision.

Features of the Aquanaut

As it is observed, Aquanaut is the signature robot of the Nauticus with its bright orange color and fully electric trait. Aquanaut can open its shell pops, and the nose flips upward to reveal its cameras and other sensors. Two arms swing out, ending in claw hands that can be fitted with different tools.

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Aquanaut, which has been designed as multifaceted, can accomplish various tasks underwater.

In Radford's point of view, offshore oil and gas production is an obvious target because it requires a huge amount of underwater equipment that needs inspection and maintenance.

"But the fastest-growing ocean industry is wind power. About 25,000 offshore turbines are planned for operation by 2030," Radford said, and they all will require servicing and inspection.

"With wild fish populations declining steeply, aquaculture – the farming of fish, shrimp, and other seafood – is growing fast, and the nets and cages in those underwater farms need regular cleaning and inspection," Radford also stated.

By early 2022, Nauticus had produced two Aquanauts and planned to build 20 more in the following three years.