By Elaine O’Regan, Sunday Business Post

His 12 years of experience running tidal energy company OpenHydro prompted entrepreneur James Ives to establish his new venture XOCEAN last year in Carlingford, Co. Louth. The company develops unmanned sea vessels to collect data for survey companies and government agencies.

“When I was with OpenHydro, we needed ocean data for the projects we were doing in the marine environment. One of the problems we kept coming up against was the need to get better quality data more quickly. I knew there had to be a better way to collect ocean data and that’s really the thrust of the business,” said Ives.

XOCEAN’s catamaran-style XO-450 vessel can be used to collect data for hydrographic and fish stock surveys, as well as met ocean data and environmental monitoring. “One of the comments you often hear is that we know more about the surface of Mars than our ocean seabeds,” said Ives. “About 95 per cent of the world’s ocean have yet to be mapped, yet the OECD is forecasting that the ocean economy will double by 2030.

“There is huge growth in the marine sector, but we have very little relevant data, because it is so difficult to collect. It’s a crazy situation.” The XO-450 vessel is controlled remotely over a web portal and has a thermal imaging camera, a sensor-mounting sonar post and 18-day endurance. According to Ives, the vessel can cut data collection costs for survey companies and government agencies by two thirds. “Collecting ocean data isn’t cheap. The traditional approach has been to send out a boat with a crew of people,” said Ives.

“That can be time-consuming, because you need the right weather conditions for the boat to go offshore and then the crew obviously need sleep and rest periods. Our vessel can operate non-stop, 24-hours a day.” Ives began to develop the vessel in early 2017 and completed a prototype last December, which has since undergone ocean testing. “It’s about the size of an average car, which in the marine world is really small. It’s operated remotely via satellite and has been designed to carry sensors required to collect the data we’re after,” said Ives.

XOCEAN is a High Potential Start-up (HPSU) with state agency Enterprise Ireland. “We were brought into Enterprise Ireland’s HPSU scheme last year. They have provided support in terms of funding, but also with training,” said Ives. “We launched the business commercially at Oceanology International in London last March at a pavilion for Irish companies funded by Enterprise Ireland and the Irish Maritime Development

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