IRobot, the company best known for its Roomba robotic vacuum, is closing its Durham office and laying off about 30 employees. The Durham office was home to the company’s maritime business, which focused on unmanned underwater vehicles. Much of the product work was focused on Seaglider, iRobot’s deep-diving vehicle designed for missions lasting months and covering thousands of miles.
The company is halting efforts to develop Seaglider as a product and will focus on existing customers and research efforts that will now occur at iRobot’s headquarters in Bedford, Mass.
IRobot’s CEO, Colin Angle, said on a conference call with analysts Wednesday that the market for unmanned underwater vehicles has not materialized as quickly as the company expected.
The closing of the Durham office is part of a larger company restructuring in response to recent defense cuts and the prospects of even more severe cuts if Congress doesn’t deal with the fiscal cliff, the automatic federal spending cuts and tax increases scheduled to take place at the beginning of the year.
The restructuring will result in the elimination of about 80 full-time positions, which is about 13 percent of the company’s workforce.
IRobot expects revenues from its defense and security business unit to decline between 30 and 40 percent next year.
The Durham office became part of iRobot after the company acquired Nekton Research in 2008. Nekton had 24 employees when it was acquired. At the time of the acquisition, Nekton had grown into an aquatic robotic power with research and development contracts with several defense agencies.