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Gecko Robotics is using robots and software to modernize the Navy’s ship maintenance, one of the biggest obstacles to fleet readiness.
The Navy’s ship program is plagued by long turn-around times for maintenance and understaffed naval bases—two problems that the company aims to solve with their robots and software, according to Jake Loosararian, co-founder and CEO of Gecko Robotics.
He’s also spoken with Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro on utilizing advanced technologies “to solve some of these problems before they become large issues.”
The Government Accountability Office found the Navy had persistent sustainment challenges between fiscal 2011 and fiscal 2021 due to maintenance delays, supply chain problems, staffing shortages, and increased record-keeping for aging systems and ships. GAO also found that the Navy has not used data to track ship readiness and that the service said compiling ship lifecycle metrics was a “significant challenge but remains a key objective.”
Gecko has been working with the Navy for almost a year on automating the repair planning process for surface ships and helping the Air Force to develop a predictive analysis platform to assess the nuclear missile launch facility infrastructure.
The company announced today a contract with the defense contractor Huntington Ingalls Industries.
Gecko hasn’t used the Small Business Innovation Research program or any kind of innovation funding, Loosararian noted. “We’ve just gone straight to contracting, which is a bit unheard of,” he said. Gecko has also been able to develop their technology specifically to meet Navy use cases “because we have not gone through those traditional methods,” he added.
A New View
With the Navy, Gecko has built an application called “Shipview,” which leverages the intellectual property software they use in the commercial sector. Their automated process can reduce to minutes an engineering task for ship maintenance that takes existing processes more than 240 hours, according to the company.
Using a variety of sensors, like ultrasonics, visual, and lidar, robots collect data and look for factors that will cause system failures or mechanical trouble. Using digital twins and a decade’s worth of data from their work in the private sector, Gecko is able to project where the damage will occur for Navy ships.
“This data did not exist before. The only way that it was previously collected was humans would crawl along the outside of the flight decks. They’re hanging off of ropes and using handheld sensors or cameras trying to look for a needle in the haystack of a damaged area using ultrasonics,” Loosararian said. “Just like you would use for a sonogram for a pregnant person, you would use the same kind of technology but try to figure out if a weld’s gonna fail or a corrosion is causing damage or issues.”
In the commercial world, Gecko’s hardware and software tools have helped the oil and gas and manufacturing sectors with system infrastructure maintenance using corrosion mapping, robot-enabled ultrasonic inspection, and rapid automated ultrasonic testing.
“How do we ensure that the things that we rely on every single day right now are not gonna fail us or collapse,” Loosararian said of the company’s ethos. He gave examples like the Fern Hollow Bridge collapsing in Pittsburgh, the Red Hills Bulk Fuel Storage Facility in Hawaii contaminating local water supply, and the Navy’s ongoing inability to use one-third of its ships stuck in maintenance cycles.
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