Orca AI, which puts computer vision onto cargo ships, raises $13M Series A funding

Tel Aviv’s Orca AI, a computer vision startup that can be retrofitted to cargo ships and improve navigation and collision avoidance, has raised $13 million in a Series A funding, taking its total raised to over $15.5 million. While most cargo ships carry security cameras, computer vision cameras are rare. Orca AI hopes its solution could introduce autonomous guidance to vessels already at sea.

There are over 4,000 annual marine incidents, largely due to human error. The company says this is getting worse as the Coronavirus pandemic makes it harder for regular crew changes. The recent events in the Suez Canal have highlighted how crucial this industry is.

The funding round was led by OCV Partners, with Principal Zohar Loshitzer joining Orca AI’s board. Mizmaa Ventures and Playfair Capital also featured.

The company was founded by naval technology experts, Yarden Gross and Dor Raviv. The latter is an former Israel navy computer vision expert. Customers include Kirby, Ray Car Carriers and NYK.

Orca AI’s AI-based navigation and vessel tracking system supports ships in difficult to tricky to navigate situations and congested waterways, using vision sensors, thermal and low light cameras, plus algorithms that look at the environment and alert crews to dangerous situations.

On the raise, Yarden Gross, CEO, and co-founder said: “The maritime industry… is still far behind aviation with technological innovations. Ships deal with increasingly congested waterways, severe weather and low-visibility conditions creating difficult navigation experiences with often expensive cargo… Our solution provides unique insight and data to any ship in the world, helping to reduce these challenging situations and collisions in the future.” 

Zohar Loshitzer, Principal from OCV added: “Commercial shipping has historically been a highly regulated and traditional industry. However, we are now “witnessing a positive change in the adoption of tech solutions to increase safety and efficiency.

Saildrone launches a 72-foot autonomous seabed-mapping boat

Mapping the ocean’s floor is a surprisingly vital enterprise, which helps with a range of activities including shipping, coastal protection, and deep-sea resource gathering. It’s also a very costly and time-consuming activity, which can be demanding and dangerous for those involved. Saildrone is a startup focused on building out autonomous exploratory vessels that can do lots of mapping, while making very little impact on the environment in which they operate, and without requiring any crew on board at all.

Saildrone’s newest robotic ocean explorer is the Surveyor, its largest vessel at 72-feet long. The Surveyor can spend up to 12 months at a stretch out at sea, and draws its power from wind (hence the large sail-like structure, which is not actually used like the sail on a sailboat) and the sun (via the solar panels dotting its above-water surfaces). Its sensor instrumentation includes sonar that can map down to 7,000 meters (around 22,000 feet). That’s not quite as deep as some of the deepest parts of the world’s oceans, but it’s plenty deep enough to cover the average depth of around 12,100 feet.

As Saildrone notes, we’ve only actually mapped around 20% of the Earth’s oceans to date – meaning we know less about it than we do the surface of Mars or the Moon. Saildrone has already been contributing to better understanding this last great frontier with its 23-foot Explorer model, which has already accumulated 500,000 nautical miles of travel on its autonomous sea voyages. The larger vessel will help not only with seafloor mapping, but also with a new DNA sample collection effort using sensors developed the University of New Hampshire and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, to better understand the genetic makeup of various lifeforms that occupy the water column in more parts of the sea.