Unmanned vessel builder Aqua Helpers sets sail after pre-Series A funding round

Built wholly with carbon fiber, these ships feature a light weight and a modular design, making them a cut above 90% of the similar unmanned boats in the world, according to Liang.

Aqua Helpers (海舶无人船), an autonomous boat developer, announced yesterday the completion of a pre-Series A funding round worth tens of millions of yuan, backed solely by Shouguang Development Zone.

The raise will be used to facilitate core R&D of unmanned ship, product iteration and construction of a smart factory.

Founded in 2019, Aqua Helpers designs and builds autonomous ships and combine them with big data and AI technologies to provide users with what it calls “intelligent water solutions,” so as to unleash value from water-related data mining.

The Beijing-based startup’s product line consists of four models. They are deployed to scenarios ranging from environmental protection and hydrogeological mapping, to emergency rescue, tourism and military purposes.

Liang Dong, founder and CEO of the firm, cited an example. In the future, real-time imagery of rivers or nearshores could be integrated into mobile map apps.

Data collected by unmanned ships will enable people to pick a suitable spot near shorelines to picnic, fish, camp or barbecue, he said.

Bodies of water ideal for the application of these vessels include waterway, reservoir, lake and offshore areas.

Aqua Helpers’ ships possess environmental perception, autonomous piloting, and fleet coordination, among other capabilities.

Built wholly with carbon fiber, these ships feature a light weight and a modular design, making them a cut above 90% of the similar unmanned boats in the world, according to Liang.

To date, its products have offered hundreds of water-related services in 20 domestic localities. The firm’s revenue has grown at a CAGR of 50% and more, Liang noted.

China’s unmanned vessel market was valued at 481 million yuan (US$67.2 million) in 2021, up 21.12% year on year.

“China’s autonomous shipping market is immense, with the market size continuously expanding thanks to downstream adoption,” Lang Jirong, chairman of Shouguang Development Group, the financial backer, said.

“Aqua Helpers’ team has advanced technology, an innovative business model and reliable sustainable development capacity. We are confident in their future growth.”

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Ni Tao

Ni Tao is the founder and editor-in-chief of cnrobopedia. Prior to cnrobopedia, he had a full decade of experience with a major state-run English-language newspaper as a tech reporter and opinion writer. He is also a communications specialist, having provided consultancy services to established firms like Siemens, Philips, ABinBev, Diageo, Trip.com Group (Nasdaq: TCOM, HK: 9961), Jianpu Technology (NYSE: JT) and a handful of domestic startups. A graduate of Fudan University, he writes widely about China's business and tech scenes and other topics for global publications including South China Morning Post, SupChina, The Diplomat, CGTN, Banking Technology, among others, and tries to impart his experience to students at Fudan University Journalism School, where he is a part-time lecturer. When he's not writing about robotics, you can expect him to be on his beloved Yanagisawa saxophones, trying to play some jazz riffs, often in vain and occasionally against the protests of an angry neighbor. Get in touch with him by dropping a line at nitao0927@gmail.com.

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