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Abu Dhabi launches $3M maritime robotics challenge

The winner of an Abu Dhabi maritime robotics challenge will secure a US $3 million reward, it has been revealed. 

The maritime innovation challenge known as the Mohamed Bin Zayed International Robotics Challenge (MBZIRC) provides tech innovators the opportunity to present marine safety and security solutions and secure the $3m prize money. The challenge will be held in Abu Dhabi in June 2023. 

Organised by ASPIRE, the dedicated technology programme management pillar of the Advanced Technology Research Council (ATRC) is held every two years. The upcoming edition, called MBZIRC Maritime Grand Challenge, focuses on real-time solutions to maritime safety and security challenges and seeks to claim its place among the largest and most prestigious AI and robotics competitions in the world.

The challenge is open to international universities, research institutions, companies and individual innovators from all over the world. It will involve a heterogeneous collaboration among unmanned aerial vehicles and unmanned surface vehicles, to perform complex navigation and manipulation tasks in a GNSS-denied environment. Call for registrations is now open.

The challenge will show how both entities focus on niche areas of technology, while attracting global innovators to stimulate ideas, encourage collaboration, and push boundaries in advanced technologies to find systems solutions to global challenges.

H.E. Faisal Al Bannai, secretary general of ATRC, said: “We are proud that MBZIRC is going global by inviting the best talent from all over the world to participate. We have set a tough real-world challenge that will push the participants to the limits of their capabilities. The event is a great opportunity to demonstrate the pioneering scientific research work that is taking place in Abu Dhabi and the UAE.”

“For countries with long coastlines, ensuring maritime safety requires significant investment in sophisticated equipment and highly trained personnel. Using advanced robotic systems can not only help reduce costs, but also handle some of the often- dangerous tasks performed by humans. The motivation for holding the MBZIRC Maritime Grand Challenge is to take the technology out of the laboratory and test it in a real-world environment to see what is possible,” said Dr Arthur Morrish, chief executive of ASPIRE.

Dr Morrish underscored the two-fold purpose behind the competition: one is to focus on the important problems in autonomy of robotics while engaging the world community in a hard robotics challenge. The other is to find a solution to a real-world challenge facing the world.

The challenge is for a swarm of UAVs to identify a target vessel from several similar vessels in open waters in a GNSS-denied environment, and to offload specific items from the target onto an USV in the shortest possible time using autonomous technologies. This is a new kind of kind of exercise in autonomous robotics. “A nice thing about this challenge is that you tell people what you want, but you don’t specify an approach to do it,” Dr Morrish added.

He said that this kind of a smart system will have practical application in other areas as well, especially as it can perform complex tasks of autonomous intervention in a GNSS-denied environment.

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