CHEK Upside: Local company builds autonomous boat for ocean research, enforcement

WatchA Victoria husband and wife team is tackling ocean exploration and research in a unique way. Colin and Julie Angus started Open Ocean Robotics two years ago with an idea.


Colin and Julie Angus of Victoria started Open Ocean Robotics two years ago with an idea.

“Imagine if you had boats out here that were just constantly collecting information, going places where no people could go,” says Julie.

The couple are no strangers to adversity.

In 2004, the couple rowed across the Atlantic ocean, with Julie becoming the first Canadian woman to ever row across an ocean.

When it came time to settle down and create a company, they used their journey as inspiration.

“It certainly has fostered both a respect and a curiosity on what’s in the ocean,” smiles Colin.

“Seeing just endless blue for months after months you really realize just how massive the oceans are and how challenging it is to explore those places in the middle of nowhere,” adds Julie.

Open Ocean Robotics uses wind and solar-powered autonomous boats to collect data about the world’s oceans. Each boat can be controlled remotely from the company’s Victoria offices.

“Autonomous boats are just a fantastic way to get to explore the oceans in a very different way and in this day and age where it’s important we’re doing things in a sustainable manner and also making it more efficient it’s a great way of achieving that,” says Colin.

Colin and Julie hope that their creation can help scientists map unexplored parts of the ocean around the world.

“The facts are that 80 percent of our oceans are unobserved, unexplored, unmapped,” says Julie. “So there’s a big challenge to overcome that.”

Trial runs have proven successful and now the team has their sights set on a program to combat illegal fishing off the B.C. coast.

“That’s where it kind of got the nickname RoboCop, because the goal was for these boats to showcase how we could detect illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing,” says Julie.

“Our boats are essentially platforms to carry sensors and any kind of sensor that you can gather oceanic data,” says Colin.”Whether it be for ocean research or for surveillance or for looking for the bad guys, our boats can do that.”

The team plans to continue test runs on their boat throughout 2021.

Colin and Julie Angus, above, are tackling ocean exploration and research in a unique way. (Photo submitted to CHEK News)

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Cole SorensonCole Sorenson

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