The award honors the company for exemplifying the best in small business innovation research. FarSounder is one of 32 companies, individuals and organizations recognized this year. Christine Smith, executive director of the Rhode Island Science and Technology Advisory Council, nominated the company for the award.
Miller and Zimmerman started the company in 2001 based on their invention of a forward-looking sonar system for use by large ships for navigation and obstacle avoidance. The system has been advanced in recent years to detect obstacles in the water – whales, reefs, shipping containers, icebergs and more – as far as a half mile away.
“We are pleased that the federal government has recognized how unique and how important our technology is,” said Cheryl M. Zimmerman, FarSounder’s chief executive officer. “It’s a very prestigious award, and we’re happy to be recognized.”
“I am so happy to see FarSounder recognized for excellence in its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) work,” said Miller, who serves on the company’s board of directors. “It is a testament to the hard work and determination of FarSounder leadership, including CEO Cheryl Zimmerman and Vice President Matt Zimmerman. The company has its roots in URI’s Department of Ocean Engineering, and FarSounder’s achievement has brought honor to the University.”
With SBIR contracts from the Department of Homeland Security, FarSounder recently developed an underwater threat detection system for protecting ports and ships from approaching divers and underwater vehicles. It is primarily being deployed on large private yachts, but the company expects it will soon be in demand for tanker ships and cruise ships, as well as for shoreline infrastructure like liquefied natural gas terminals and oil platforms.
FarSounder continues to have a strong tie to URI. It hires URI students as interns every year, some of whom are hired into full-time positions. And it regularly charters the University’s ship Cap’n Bert when testing the company’s sonar systems in Narragansett Bay and demonstrating them to customers. In May, prospective customers from Poland, Denmark, Spain, France and the United States traveled aboard the URI vessel to learn about the company’s products.
“We’ve been well-known in Europe and other parts of the globe. We’re finally being recognized in the U.S., where we feel we have a lot to offer to help the economy and help the safety of the commercial fleets,” Cheryl Zimmerman said.
SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet (left) presents the 2015 Tibbetts Award to FarSounder CEO Cheryl Zimmerman and Vice President for Engineering Matt Zimmerman, as SBA Associate Administrator Javier Saade (right) looks on.