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Navy League 2023: Fairbanks Morse Defense unveils effort to help small tech firms

Boston Engineering and Fairbanks Morse Defense displayed a new ship maintenance robot at Navy League Sea-Air-Space 2023 conference. (Janes/Marc Selinger)

US naval supplier Fairbanks Morse Defense (FMD) has launched an ‘Accelerator' programme to help small businesses develop technology with maritime defence applications.

The Accelerator provides participants with mentoring, training, technical support, and access to FMD contacts at the US Navy and the US Coast Guard. During the Navy League Sea-Air-Space 2023 conference, FMD CEO George Whittier told reporters on 4 April that the programme will help his company “bring the most innovative solutions to our customers”. FMD plans to invest “single-digit millions” of dollars in the initiative annually, Whittier said.

FMD highlighted three Accelerator participants at the show – Boston Engineering of Waltham, Massachusetts, in the US; Oceus Networks of Reston, Virginia, in the US; and PureLiFi of Edinburgh, Scotland. All three exhibited devices are designed to help with ship maintenance.

Boston Engineering displayed a small unmanned ground vehicle equipped with a robotic arm and a human hand-like gripper. The robot, which the business developed with FMD, is intended to perform work in areas that are hazardous to people or on vessels that have no or limited human labour.

Oceus showcased a suitcase-portable 5G cellular network that enables augmented reality (AR) on ships. The AR could be used not only by maintenance crews wearing goggles on ships, but by FMD technical support teams giving them instructions from land.

PureLiFi demonstrated a head-mounted display showing a digital twin of an engine located at an FMD factory. To reach the display, the twin used new light-based communications technology, which is considered more secure than traditional transmission means, namely radio signals.

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