A FAREHAM firm has played host to a high-profile visit from the Royal Navy as it looks to grow its business in a new direction.
Saab Seaeye, based in Segensworth, designs and manufactures remotely-operated underwater vehicles.
They are most often used for inspecting oil and gas pipelines, or assisting oceanographers in their work leagues under the surface of the sea.
But the company is now looking to expand its services to the defence sector, and welcomed a delegation led by Commodore Alex Burton, the navy’s head of maritime capability, to tour the company’s site.
The Royal Navy is looking for innovative and cost-efficient ways of finding and disposing of marine mines.
Saab Seaeye’s sales director Matt Bates said: ‘We’ve been a commercial company for the past 25 years, but increasingly we’re moving into defence.
‘There’s an opportunity here for us to use our commercial vehicles for a military purpose.’
During the visit the delegation saw a demonstration of a Falcon ROV operating a ballista mine neutralisation system.
The benefit to the navy, Mr Bates said, would be that there is no risk to life as the vehicle is unmanned.
‘There’s also the economic benefit to the navy, as it is technology that can be adapted for their needs,’ he said.
Saab Seaeye exports around 80 per cent of its vehicles, which the firm tests in Portchester at Trafalgar Wharf.
The firm’s sales have reached more than £25m, and it has expanded its workforce by a quarter since the factory opened.
In March the company opened a second factory site, within metres of its existing facility, essentially doubling its factory size.
The company’s existing training facility is being expanded in the new premises with more training packages for customers’ operators in the operation and maintenance of Saab Seaeye’s underwater vehicles.
The expansion will also free up more space in the existing facility for larger production orders, along with greater stockholding potential so that more ‘off the shelf’ deliveries can be offered.