At the offices of Middletown engineering services company Systems Engineering Associates Corp., otherwise known as Sea Corp., hangs what is known as the “bid board.” It is the place where potentially great ideas are judged to see whether the company that provides high-technology support for complex naval electronic and combat systems aboard submarines will break another innovation barrier and go to market.
If the idea holds water, it will go from the bid board to a contender for the federal government’s Small Business Innovative Research contracts. So far, veteran-owned Sea Corp. has had two winning ideas that have made it to market and yielded a whole lot of profit. From these, the undisputed leader of bid board ideas relies on thrust from an inflatable bag.
The U.S. Navy had been looking for a more effective way of launching torpedoes. At the time, the systems in place were high-pressure air flasks mounted to the torpedo tube, prone to leakage and loss of thrusting “umph.”
In comes what Sea Corp. Vice President for Corporate Development Richard Talipsky calls the golden idea.
“We took the existing idea of the automobile airbag and adapted it,” he said.
Talipsky sees this type of idea germination as the inevitable result of hiring the very best, giving them autonomy over their ideas, and as much financial and technical support to determine if any will bear fruit. “We put a great deal of our resources into our independent R & D,” said Talipsky. “This investment … has helped us keep on the edge of innovation.”
Sea Corp.’s airbag system uses the existing technology that Detroit already had perfected to launch anything from a 750-pound torpedo to a one-pound drone plane.
“What we have done is to use a combination of these bags in various sizes and various pressures,” adds Talipsky. “The less pressure put on the payload or instrumentation, the less likely an explosion during firing .”
With testing already reaching 99.99 percent reliability with a 15-year shelf life, and with Sea Corp. owning both U.S. and European patents on the product, the great idea has no competitors. This family of products, which includes advanced torpedo launchers, evasion device and countermeasures launchers, sonobuoys, unmanned undersea vehicles as well as aerial vehicles, account for $10 million in revenue over the last decade.
It is a monopoly, but one achieved because the company deals in unique concepts that are accepted by one customer, the U.S. government. “The technical parameters are very complicated, testing is very expensive, and we are the premier experts,” noted Talipsky.
While Sea Corp. is waiting for the military to move forward with its plans to incorporate its technology into three new surface ships, it has been contacted by Homeland Security to create a really large bag to stem the flow of water from a levee rupture. That’s when the hero of the bid board will really start to take off. •