December 4, 2023
Shore Thing: A UNF professor's ‘Surf Rover' will study the ocean floor close to the beach
William Dally displays a one-quarter scale model of the rover he hopes to have working by next year.

Northeast Florida Roundup

Shore Thing: A UNF professor's ‘Surf Rover' will study the ocean floor close to the beach

Mark Basch | 5/29/2018

Engineers have built vehicles that can roam Mars, but creating a vehicle that can roam Earth’s shorelines has been a bigger challenge, says William Dally, associate professor of civil engineering at the University of North Florida.

“Waves really impact a big load on any object you put in the surf zone,” he says.

Dally is working on a remote-operated vehicle called the Surf Rover to study the impact of storms, erosion and other hazards on the coastline. “You’re essentially trying to build a bulldozer that goes into the surf,” he says.

Dally, who has degrees in coastal engineering and engineering mechanics, has been working on the issue for years. His 3,000-pound vehicle will feature a diesel engine with a snorkel exhaust.

With the help of $515,000 from the National Science Foundation in 2015, Dally and a team of students hope to have the Surf Rover working by next year.

“If it is a success,” says Dally, “I’d start a company to fabricate them.”

More news and business briefs from Northeast Florida:


  • Joshua Scott became CEO of BCR, a provider of biosolids and process treatment technology. Scott joined the company in 2016 and was serving as interim CEO since July 2017.
  • Scott Sanner became CEO of Citra Health Solutions. He was previously senior vice president and general manager of accountable care at Change Healthcare.
  • J.J. Harris became president and executive director of Clay Florida Economic Development Corp. Harris had been president of the Laramie Chamber Business Alliance and Laramie Economic Development Corp. in Wyoming.
  • Tresa Calfee was named president of the Clay County Chamber of Commerce. Calfee joined the chamber as vice president in 2014 and had been interim president since August 2017.


COLUMBIA COUNTY — Florida Power & Light is building four solar power plants in Florida, including one in Columbia County. The plant is to begin operating in mid-2019. FPL expects to employ about 200 people during construction of the plant.


  • Oregon-based EVIO Labs, which has a cannabistesting facility in Davie, is opening a second Florida lab in Gainesville.
  • Convenience store chain Wawa is planning its first three Gainesville locations.


  • JinkoSolar received $3.4 million in incentives to open a solar panel plant at the Cecil Commerce Center that will create 200 jobs and serve as the Chinese company’s North American headquarters. The company will invest $50.5 million of its own money. However, JinkoSolar downsized its original application, filed anonymously two months earlier, for $25 million in incentives in exchange for 800 jobs. JinkoSolar also announced an agreement to supply 7 million solar panels over four years to FPL parent NextEra Energy.
  • Fidelity National Financial is buying Stewart Information Services for $1.2 billion. The merger would increase Fidelity’s share of the U.S. title insurance market from about 32% to 42%. The company expects regulators to mandate divestitures before giving approval, which could take up to a year.
  • FRP Holdings is selling 41 industrial warehouses in the mid-Atlantic region to Blackstone Real Estate for $359 million. FRP will use the proceeds to invest in mixeduse and other development properties.
  • Magellan Transport Logistics is buying a new headquarters building. It expects to add 100 employees to its current 55 with the expansion.
  • cut an unspecified number of jobs. The provider of internet services for business employed about 3,600 people, including 1,000 in Jacksonville, at the end of 2017.
  • With sales faltering, Stein Mart appointed a special committee of its board to evaluate a strategy for growing.
  • Insurance services firm Fortegra Financial is establishing a European subsidiary headquartered in Malta.
  • Gildan Activewear is opening a distribution center on the Northside near JaxPort.

JENNINGS — Cultiva Farms USA completed a cold storage facility as part of a $10-million leafy salad crop farm on a 460-acre ranch. The company, a partnership between Italy-based Cultiva and U.S. fruit and vegetable company Taylor Farms, was awarded a grant from the Hamilton County Development Authority to complete the facility. It will employ 34 people.

  • Southeastern Grocers, operator of Winn-Dixie and three other supermarket chains, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The company agreed with creditors to issue stock in exchange for $522 million in notes and will close 94 stores, leaving it with about 580. The company expects to get out of bankruptcy by the summer. Court filings show it projects to be profitable when it emerges from Chapter 11 with about $8.5 billion in annual sales.


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