Who's Going To Carry The Autonomous Boats?

Hey y’all in this week’s post we have
- Navy SEAL raises money for autonomous boats
- 21 yo SpaceX intern reads an ancient scroll using ML and a particle accelerator
- Disney launches a cool robot and people love it

from our sponsor

Build better products faster.

Working on complex hardware? Had enough of JIRA? Us too.

Motivated by our experience developing Formula One cars, semiconductors, and large-scale energy infrastructure, we built Anneal: a digital workspace for engineering teams. Intended to complement existing PLM/PDM solutions, it lets engineers collaboratively plan, discuss, and review engineering concepts, designs, and drawings.

Our free tier is now in public beta—and we're excited to invite Hard Startups subscribers to join. Visit getanneal.com to sign up.

Who’s going to carry the (autonomous) boats?

Saronic announced their $55m Series A round this week. The Texas-based company is building self-driving boats for the US Navy. Saronic was started last year by Navy SEAL Dino Mavrookas.

Saronic is playing a role in the fast-growing trend of startups building autonomous vehicles for vertical specific applications. In the last few years we’ve seen startups building self-driving boats for ocean analysis, self-driving yard trucks, and self-driving tractors all raise serious cash.

The team is currently building three types of boats. A 6-foot long boat with 40lb payload capacity called the Spyglass, Cutlass — A 13-foot long boat with 200lbs of payload capacity and Corsair, which doesn’t have any public details yet.

Saronic is building full-stack, not only manufacturing the boats themselves but creating advanced software capabilities that allow the boats to communicate, and react to their environment in real time.

The Saronic team is based in Austin, Texas and there’s quite a few open roles for folks interested in building smart maritime robotic boats.

Particle Accelerators, ancient scrolls, and a SpaceX intern

Yesterday Luke Farritor, a 21yo CS student and SpaceX intern, was announced as the first person in over 2000 years to read text on an ancient scroll for the Scroll Prize challenge. He won $40,000 for using an ML model to identify words on the scroll.

The words translate to"purple dye" or "cloths of purple"

Scroll Prize is a challenge started by Nat Friedman (former CEO of GitHub) to read the charred remnants of ancient scrolls which were preserved in the ash of the Vesuvius eruption.

This is what the scrolls look like irl. Not very readable

The process of reading a scroll is pretty complicated. First the scrolls are scanned with a particle accelerator, then they are virtually unrolled. Even then it’s virtually impossible to read any letters on the images.

One of Luke’s submissions for the Scroll Prize challenge.

Luke found out about the problem from the Dwarkesh Patel podcast with Nat Friedman. Later he saw a blog post from hard tech founder Casey Handmer (founder of Terraform Industries) showing how he found evidence of ink in the scanned scrolls. Luke soon got to work and ultimately produced some code that identified the first words uncovered from the scrolls.

I love this story because it’s one with tons of really smart people hacking on an interesting problem, combining software expertise, and hardware (particle accelerators) to do something cool and borderline impossible.

The challenge was brought together by one person (Nat) being really interested in the problem and getting folks excited about the problem. I think there is an analog for Hard Startups in here. Sometimes the technology exists and it just takes someone really caring to put all the pieces together.

More info on how the first letters were discovered on the Scroll Prize site.

Quick Links

airgradient, an open-source air monitor, explains the process of getting a plastic injection mold made.

Hermeus, a startup building hypersonic aircraft, posts a progress picture on X.

Disney launches a cool robot that people can’t get enough of. Checkout a video of the robot in action on Simon’s (founder of nimble.ai) post here

That’s all for this week

See y’all next week 🫡