Advanced Navigation announces the acquisition of Vai Photonics

Xavier Orr, Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Advanced Navigation

Advanced Navigation, an innovator in AI robotics, and navigation tech announced the acquisition of Vai Photonics, a spin-out from The Australian National University (ANU) developing patented photonic sensors for precision navigation. Vai Photonics share a similar vision to provide tech to drive the autonomy revolution and will join Advanced Navigation to profit their research into autonomous and robotic apps across land, air, sea and space.

What does the deal mean to Advanced Navigation?

“The tech Vai Photonics is developing will be of huge value to the emerging autonomy revolution. The synergies, shared vision and collaborative potential we see between Vai Photonics and Advanced Navigation will enable us to be at the forefront of robotic and autonomy driven technologies,” said Xavier Orr, CEO and co-founder of Advanced Navigation.

“Photonic technology will be essential to the overall success, safety and reliability of these new emerging systems. We look forward to sharing the next generation of autonomous navigation and robotic solutions with the global community,” Xavier further commented.

James Spollard, CTO and co-founder of Vai Photonics detailed the tech “Precision navigation when GPS is unavailable or unreliable is a major challenge in the development of autonomous systems. Our emerging photonic sensing tech will enable positioning and navigation that is orders of magnitude more stable and precise than existing solutions in these environments.”

“By combining laser interferometry and electro-optics with advanced signal processing algorithms and real-time software, we can measure how fast a vehicle is moving in three dimensions. As a result, we can accurately measure how the vehicle is moving through the environment, and from this infer where the vehicle is located with great precision.”

How can Vai Photonics’ tech be leveraged?

The tech, which has been in works for over 15 years at ANU, will solve complex autonomy challenges across aerospace, automotive, weather, space exploration, railways and logistics.

Aircraft with an electric vertical takeoff and landing system such as flying taxis will greatly benefit from this technology. Landing and takeoff are often considered the most dangerous and expensive part of a flight route. Vai Photonics sensors will provide safe and reliable autonomous takeoff and landings under all conditions adding a much needed layer of safety.

Space travel and exploration is fraught with risks, vast complexity and enormous cost. This technology will bring massive benefits to space missions, helping to cement Advanced Navigation as the gold-standard for space-qualified navigation systems for space exploration.

Prof. Brian Schmidt, Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University said “Vai Photonics is another great ANU example of how you take fundamental research – the thinking that pushes the mental boundaries– and turn it into products and tech that power our lives.”

“Vai Photonics’ advanced autonomous navigation systems stems from the search for elusive gravitational waves – ripples in space and time caused by massive cosmic events like black holes colliding. The team have built on a decade of R&D across advanced measurements, digital signals and quantum optics to build their innovative navigation tech,” Prof Schmidt said.

“We are proud to have backed Vai Photonics through our Centre for Gravitational Astrophysics and business and commercialisation office. It’s really exciting to see the team take another major step in their incredible journey,” Prof Schmidt further commented.

What does the deal mean to Vai Photonics?

Dr Lyle Roberts, CEO and co-founder of Vai Photonics looks forward to an autonomous future “This is a huge win for the Vai Photonics team – together with Advanced Navigation we are able to bring our product to market much faster than originally planned.”

“We now have access to leading research and development facilities along with strong distribution channels. We couldn’t have asked for a better outcome and look forward to navigating the future with Advanced Navigation,” Dr Roberts further commented.

This deal fits into Advanced Navigation’s larger growth strategy to expand its product and solutions portfolio across deep tech fields that look to solve the world’s greatest challenges facing the autonomy revolution. The acquisition finalised in April 2022, subject to typical closing conditions. The Vai Photonics team has been integrated into Advanced Navigation’s research and development team, based out of the new Canberra research facility.

Spollard and Roberts received seed funding from OzGrav, the ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery and EQUS, the ARC Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems towards fundamental LiDAR research that came to be Vai Photonics.