The Office of Naval Research (ONR) selects Houston Mechatronics for Multi-Million Dollar Award to Develop Robotic Hands and Intelligent Behaviors for Subsea Missions

Published: June 4, 2019

Houston, Texas – Houston Mechatronics Inc (HMI) announced a new award by the Office of Naval Research to develop Artificial Intelligence (AI)  powered robotic hands for subsea manipulators.


Robotic systems are increasingly serving in more important roles within the naval battle space as technology matures and desired warfighter stand off distance increases. Typically, robots in the ocean do not have the manipulation dexterity of their land-based counterparts and therefore are not capable of approaching human-level performance. This hinders the robot’s ability to accomplish dexterous manipulation tasks underwater, increases the danger to human operators, and lowers the potential value of robotic system.  The team at HMI is developing and fielding highly dexterous robotic hands that use AI grasping behaviors which will be demonstrated with their revolutionary subsea transforming robot Aquanaut.


“Our team excels at the rapid development, testing, and deployment of subsea robotic technology and we look forward to merging these capabilities with our knowledge base in humanoid robotics,” said Nic Radford, CTO at Houston Mechatronics.  “While our team was at NASA, our bio-mimetic designs worked well on Robonaut and Valkyrie and we look forward to demonstrating the value that dexterous end effectors integrated into capable manipulators will bring to the US Navy.”


The hardware HMI is building will be coupled with AI powered software to enable higher performance.  “The field of robotics has always included a back and forth race between the hardware’s ability and the underlying intelligent software which enables the intended function. However for this effort, we will have to make considerable advancements on each front at the same time”, explains Dr. JD Yamokoski the Principal Investigator for this project.


HMI will be testing their innovations in robotic hands and dexterity on Aquanaut, a revolutionary transforming subsea robot that can change its morphology from a long range Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) to an un-tethered Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) platform suited for stable, seabed or water column manipulation tasks.



About Houston Mechatronics

We are a vertically integrated service provider that is committed to innovating and delivering world class robotics in both oil and gas and defense. We build and use robots on land and at sea that are revolutionizing the way over the horizon autonomous work is done.  Find out more at


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