Challenge Terms and Conditions



Challenge Terms and Conditions




The upcoming edition of the Mohammed Bin Zayed International Robotics Challenge (MBZIRC) called the Maritime Grand Challenge (The Challenge) is organised by ASPIRE UAE – Sole Proprietorship LLC (ASPIRE, We or Us), the dedicated technology programme management pillar of the Advanced Technology Research Council (ATRC), the overarching advanced technology research body in Abu Dhabi. The Challenge is governed by:


  1. the terms and conditions described in this document (Terms and Conditions),
  2. the media guidelines,
  3. any competitor agreement the team may be required to sign (the Competitor Agreement),
  4. any further rules and regulations that are released in respect of the Challenge from time to time; and
  5. any relevant documents shared with the team during the course of the Challenge (collectively the Challenge T&Cs).


Teams registering to take part in the Challenge shall be subject to, and must comply with, the Challenge T&Cs. When we refer to Team, we are referring to the team and each present and future team member, including any individual or corporate entity acting either as an employee, consultant, volunteer or contractor who makes any contribution to the Challenge, as determined by ASPIRE in its sole and absolute discretion.

ASPIRE may change the Challenge T&Cs at any time during the Challenge for any reason. These reasons include the following:


  • to provide additional information about the Challenge,
  • to make any necessary changes to, or to generally improve the Challenge, and
  • to address unforeseen events or issues.


We will notify all Teams of any changes to the Challenge T&Cs (either by announcement, or through our website or any other notification method chosen by ASPIRE). Further information and documentation will be made available to the Teams throughout the different phases of the Challenge, including dates and locations of events, specific technical information for phases and judging criteria. For latest updates, please refer to section xxxx on our website.

The Teams will be responsible at all times for reviewing changes to the Challenge T&Cs, ensuring that they are up to date with any information that might be posted on the website and/or provided to the Teams by email or otherwise.




Robots and other autonomous systems are increasingly being adopted in diverse fields – from health care and security to transport and manufacturing – as they become cheaper and smarter.

However, a significant gap exists between the current reality of robotic capabilities and real-world requirements. Through the MBZIRC Maritime Grand Challenge, ASPIRE is looking to bridge this gap by pushing technological boundaries and enabling robots to work more autonomously in dynamic, unstructured environments, while interacting and collaborating with us – and with one another.

In 2024, the Challenge will bring together accredited universities, research institutions and individual innovators from all over the world to collaborate in finding a practical solution to global maritime security challenges such as illegal fishing, piracy, smuggling and human trafficking.

The goal of the Challenge is to develop an innovative autonomous system that will help tackle these wide-ranging maritime challenges, and ensure the safety of personnel in the maritime surveillance and intervention sector.

This highly complex, multi-layered task involves autonomous aerial and surface vehicles working together in a GNSS-denied environment off the coast of Abu Dhabi, to detect unfriendly vessels and offload goods from them in the shortest possible time. The complexity of the Challenge could be furthered by weather conditions such as sandstorms, strong winds, rough seas and the hot summer sun.

The sections describe the Challenge in detail: (i) Equipment, (ii) Communication, and (iii) Tasks


In order to participate in the Challenge, the Teams will need to use:


  • 1 autonomous unmanned surface vehicle base station (USV) with a manipulation arm; and
  • A swarm of 5 -20 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).


UAVs may land on, take off from and recharge on the USV.

The USV and the Robotic manipulation arm will be provided by ASPIRE to each team that qualifies for Phase 3. The UAVs are to be arranged by each competing team. No other device or equipment will be allowed, besides the “USV + UAV swarm” system.



  • The whole USV + UAV swarm system must work in a Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS)-denied environment.
  • No extra-system communications are allowed (except those provided by ASPIRE for security and safety purposes).
  • Intra-system communication is permitted. The USV could hold a base station (e.g., a femtocell) to augment the UAV swarm capabilities.



The Teams will undertake two principal tasks: Inspection and Intervention.


  1. Inspection

    The UAV swarm should be used to monitor a large surface area of water to identify vessels, which may be in motion. Out of the total number of vessels present, there will be a subset of “target” vessels. Target vessels could be fishing boats, sailboats, barges or small cargo ships. Once a vessel is located, the UAV swarm should deploy to identify whether it is a target or not through a scan of the vessel with the following outcomes to be transmitted to the USV base station:


    • A 3D model of the vessel to match with a reference model.
    • In the case of a possible target vessel, a Boolean “suspected”/”not suspected” signal should be transmitted to the rest of the swarm through intra-swarm communication for collective decision-making.
    • Once a target vessel is confirmed by the operator, the USV + UAV swarm system will proceed to the intervention task.


  2. Intervention


    • For the vessels that are classified as a target by the swarm:
      • A video(s) stream is activated between the UAVs and the USV.
      • The operator watches the video and confirms the nature of the vessel.
      • If the operator does not confirm the suspected target because the UAVs made a wrong collective decision, the Team will be penalised through an increase of the mission completion time and the swarm will resume searching.
    • When a vessel is identified as a target, the operator selects items to be retrieved from that vessel. Each item can weigh a maximum 1kg.
      • The items must be picked up from the vessel and transported by UAVs to the USV either collectively or via individual transport.
      • One of the target vessels will have items that are too large (maximum weight of 10kg) to be collected by the UAVs. The UAVs will collectively attach to those larger objects and move them closer to the edges of the vessel.
      • Once the vessel is close to the USV, the large object will be picked up by the USV directly using its manipulation arm.
      • This will require a USV locomotion and manipulation to be performed in a coordinated fashion, taking into consideration possible adverse sea conditions. The large objects collected by the manipulation arm are to be deposited on the deck of the USV.
      • After all the items have been collected from the target vessel, the swarm will resume exploring and determine whether all target vessels have been found.
      • The mission concludes after a predefined finish time or the moment when the UAV-USV system has determined that there are no more target vessels in the area, and have landed back on the USV, whichever is earlier.



Challenge Phases

The Challenge will have three phases. They are as below:


  • Phase 1: White Paper (3 months)

    Each participating team is required to submit a white paper describing the team, its background in swarm robotics, computer vision, simultaneous localisation and mapping, marine vehicle expertise, communications capabilities, and the technical approach to be used in solving the Challenge.

  • Phase 2: Simulation (6 months)

    The qualifying teams will be required to complete inspection and intervention tasks in simulation. This phase will see the shortlisting of the five finalist teams.

    Teams will also need to submit proof-of-concept videos on the different sub-components of their system and demonstrate the feasibility of the approach used. The videos should cover the following components of the Challenge:


    • Multi-UAV search and inspection of large representative structures
    • Intra-swarm communication and collective decision-making
    • Collective transportation of objects between the large structure and the home location


  • Phase 3: Demonstration of System Capabilities (12 months)

    In the final phase, selected Teams will demonstrate their system capabilities in a specially designated marine environment off the coast of Abu Dhabi. Evaluation will be based on the total time required to complete the inspection and intervention tasks. This phase includes inspection, ID, and manipulation subtasks, with the maximum mission completion time set at 50 minutes.





The following timeline is indicative and may be changed during the course of the Challenge. Any such changes will be announced on the website.

Oct 1, 2021-Jan 31, 2022Phase 1Call for whitepaper submission: Start of whitepaper acceptance
End of participant registration and End of white paper acceptance
1 monthJudging of white papers
Jan 31, 2022Announcement of 10-20 semifinalists
6 monthsPhase 2Semifinalists develop solutions
Aug 1-22, 2022Semifinalists begin on-site simulation and demonstration
Aug 30, 2022Judging of the semifinalists
Aug 31, 2022Announcement of up to 5 finalists
12 monthsPhase 3Finalists develop solutions
Feb, 2024Demonstration by the finalists
Feb, 2024End of finalist demonstration and judgement
Feb, 2024Announcement of winners and prize distribution




The total prize purse is US $3.25 million. The prize will be distributed in the following manner:


  • Phase 2

    At the end of this phase, US $500,000 will be awarded to the Teams that reach and progress to the final stage, to be split equally among them.

  • Phase 3

    Final prizes:


    • 1st Prize : US $2 million
    • 2nd Prize : US $500,000 (runner-up)
    • 3rd Prize : US $250,000



Prizes are at the sole discretion of ASPIRE and will only be awarded to the Teams that complete the entire Challenge in a satisfactory manner





  • To participate in the Challenge, Teams must register through the website, Registration begins on September 28, 2021, at 6pm GST.
  • Teams must register before Jan 31, 2022, 6pm GST.
  • The white paper must be received by ASPIRE no later than Jan 31, 2022, by 6pm GST. The format and content requirements of the white paper will be announced on the website.


By registering for and/or submitting a white paper for the Challenge, the Team and each present and future team member represents and warrants that it has read and understood the Challenge T&Cs and are agreeing to be bound by the Challenge T&Cs. A copy of the Challenge T&Cs will available on




Any Team that has the skills, resources and knowledge to participate and succeed in completing the Grand Challenge is eligible, except:


  • employees of ASPIRE, its parent company or other subsidiaries of such parent company (the Affiliates);
  • employees of agents or suppliers of ASPIRE or any of its Affiliates, who are professionally connected with the Challenge or its administration;
  • members of the immediate families or households of (a) or (b);
  • any person or entity involved, or suspected of being involved, in illegal activities; or
  • any person or entity registered or ordinarily resident in a country that is on a sanctions list at any time during this Challenge (including, but not limited to, the Sanctions Lists maintained by the United States, the United Nations and the European Union); or
  • any other entity or person that ASPIRE may deem ineligible for whatsoever reason.





Performance at the Maritime Grand Challenge will be assessed on several criteria:


  1. Search algorithm: The UAVs will need to search and identify target vessels in a large area within a limited time. This will require an algorithm that is optimised among the UAV swarm.
  2. Communication within the UAV Swarm: Limited line-of-sight and weather conditions may create impediments to reliable networking and communications links.
  3. UAV payload capacity and grappling mechanism: The UAV must have the ability to securely lift and transport a designated package to an USV and deposit it on the USV deck.
  4. Communication and coordination between independent autonomous systems: The UAV and USV are independent systems. Communication and coordination between the two systems is a Challenge element.
  5. Operation in a GNSS-denied environment: Both the UAVs and the USV must function and navigate in a GNSS-denied environment.
  6. Identification of the target vessel: Imaging sensors and detection algorithms must be able to identify a target vessel from limited descriptions.
  7. Endurance limits: The Inspection and Intervention tasks must be completed within 50 minutes to be mission relevant. This aggregate endurance requires novel energy-aware planning, energy harvesting or transfer technologies.
  8. Robotic arm mounting and manipulation: The Challenge is to mount a robotic arm on the USV to transfer a heavy object from the target vessel to the USV.





The Challenge entries will be judged by a designated panel. Details of individual members of the judging panel will be released on the website during the Challenge. The judging panel will include a range of qualified subject matter experts from various backgrounds and will be selected by ASPIRE.

The judging panel shall have the sole and absolute discretion to determine the methodology used by it to render decisions, to determine the winners of the Challenge and to award any prize/award. The decision of the panel of judges will be final. The Team agrees not to dispute any decision of the judging panel.




ASPIRE does not claim any rights of ownership in the technology that is developed or used by the Team in respect of their Challenge entry (“Team Technology”). Each Team will own the intellectual property in its Team Technology. However, acceptance of a prize in Phase 3 is conditional on the Teams granting to ASPIRE and its Affiliates a nonexclusive, sub-licensable, perpetual, royalty-free, worldwide licence to use and exploit the intellectual property in the Team Technology for any purpose. Further details relating to this licence will be contained in the Competitor Agreement.

For six months after the conclusion of the Challenge, each finalist Team shall grant ASPIRE a first right of refusal to negotiate the purchase of an exclusive licence over the intellectual property in the Team Technology. Further details related to the first right of refusal will be contained in the Competitor Agreement.

For the avoidance of doubt, if ASPIRE or any of its Affiliates provides any intellectual property to the Team in connection with their participation in the Challenge (“Background IP”), any Background IP is owned by, and remains the property of, ASPIRE or its Affiliates, respectively.

Teams should not do anything to jeopardise the potential intellectual property in the Team Technology through the use of social media or otherwise.

In addition, the Team will not use ASPIRE’s logos, brand names, slogans or other trademarks, or post or otherwise use any of ASPIRE’s confidential or proprietary information without its prior written permission.




Each Team is responsible for the health and safety of its members over the course of its participation in the Challenge and must maintain adequate insurances in accordance with applicable laws. Teams must comply with all laws and regulations that apply to their participation in the Challenge. All costs of competing in the Challenge are the responsibility of the competing Team and ASPIRE shall not be liable for any costs incurred by the Teams during their participation in the Challenge.




Teams are free to add experts or new members at any time throughout the Challenge. Teams may also merge with other Teams during the Challenge. In all cases, any proposed change to a Team or any merger of a Team must be notified to ASPIRE in writing in advance. Additional details regarding Team mergers are provided in the Competitor Agreement.




The following section aims to provide teams with common sense guidelines and recommendations for using social media responsibly and safely.

Teams must not post disparaging or defamatory statements about ASPIRE, any Affiliate, partner, sponsor or anyone working with ASPIRE on this Challenge, the Challenge itself, or post anything they would find offensive, including discriminatory comments, insults or obscenity.

Teams should avoid social media communications that might be misconstrued in a way that could damage the Challenge, or the reputation of ASPIRE or its Affiliate directly or indirectly.

Teams should make it clear in social media posts that they are speaking in their own capacities and not on behalf of ASPIRE.

If a Team discloses its affiliation with the Challenge, it must also state that its views do not represent those of ASPIRE.




Insofar as is permitted by law, ASPIRE, its agents or distributors will not in any circumstances be responsible or liable to compensate the winner or accept any liability for any loss, damage, personal injury or death occurring as a result of taking part in the Challenge, except where it is caused by the negligence of ASPIRE, its agents or distributors or that of their employees.




ASPIRE will only process a Team’s personal information as set out in Privacy Policy.




All information identified as proprietary and submitted by a Team to ASPIRE relating to the Challenge will remain strictly confidential, unless otherwise agreed by the Team and ASPIRE and/or as set out in the Challenge T&Cs.

The Teams and ASPIRE agree to hold information received from each other in connection with the Challenge in strict confidence and that each will not disclose, copy, reproduce or distribute any of it without the consent of the provider of the information.




If there is any reason to believe that a Team has breached the Challenge T&Cs, ASPIRE may, at its sole discretion, disqualify the Team from participating in the Challenge.

If ASPIRE believes that a Team should no longer participate in the Challenge, it may, at its sole discretion, disqualify the team from participating or continuing to participate in the Challenge. For example, ASPIRE may exclude a Team if the Team engages in conduct that is determined by ASPIRE, in its sole discretion, to be offensive or inappropriate, or reflects poorly on ASPIRE or any of its Affiliates, to be disruptive or harmful for the Challenge. ASPIRE may also exclude any Team that does not actively or productively participate in the Challenge.

ASPIRE also reserves the right to terminate, hold void, suspend, cancel or amend the Challenge where it becomes necessary (in ASPIRE’s opinion) to do so.

Once a Team has withdrawn or is otherwise disqualified from the Challenge, the Team shall not engage in any conduct that is determined by ASPIRE to reflect poorly on or be disparaging to ASPIRE or and/or any Affiliate or that may disrupt or harm, in any manner, the Challenge. The Challenge T&Cs shall survive the withdrawal or disqualification of a Team from the Challenge.




These Terms and Conditions shall be governed by, and construed in accordance with, the laws of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and the federal laws of the United Arab Emirates, as applied in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. Each Party irrevocably agrees that the courts of Abu Dhabi shall have exclusive jurisdiction to hear, settle and/or determine any dispute, controversy or claim (including any non-contractual dispute, controversy or claim) arising out of or in connection with this Agreement, including any question regarding its existence, validity, formation or termination.

The Team may only use media content that has been approved for use by ASPIRE. Further details are contained in the media guidelines.

If a Team wishes to receive any third-party funding towards its participation in the Challenge, the Team should seek consent from ASPIRE prior to obtaining any such funding.

Connect with us
Please provide a valid name
Please provide a valid email
Please provide your message
Special characters are not allowed
5 + 0 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.