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, we at ASPIRE are looking to bridge the 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.
To be held in 2023, the competition will bring together universities, research institutions and individual innovators from all over the world to collaborate on finding a practical solution to global maritime security challenges such as illegal fishing, piracy, smuggling and human trafficking.
It is the first experiment of its kind that will involve a heterogeneous collaboration among unmanned aerial vehicles and unmanned surface vehicles to perform complex navigation and manipulation tasks in a GNSS- denied marine environment.
The competition offers a prize money of US $3,250,000
The team winning the first prize will take home US $2,000,000.
The team placed second will receive US $500,000
The team bagging the third prize wins US $250,000.
A special cash award of US $500,000 will also be awarded to all teams progressing to the demonstration phase. The amount is to be split among the teams.
Teams that accept the demonstration phase prize money will provide to ASPIRE nonexclusive, perpetual and royalty-free access to the IP, with rights to sublicence it to third parties.
Now till June 2023, the MBZIRC Maritime Grand Challenge will stretch the collective intelligence and creativity of teams from universities, research institutions, and innovative businesses the world over. The journey to the final in Abu Dhabi will challenge robotics pioneers to collaborate, innovate, and generate new technical solutions that meet the demands of the modern world.
01 Oct, 2021 - 31 Jan, 2022
Each participating team is required to register online , then later submit a white paper describing the team, its background in swarm robotics, computer vision, simultaneous localisation and mapping, marine vehicles, and communications, along with its proposed technical approach.
The format and content requirements of the white paper will be announced on the MBZIRC Maritime Grand Challenge website at www.mbzirc.com
Registration are now open. White papers can be submitted from 1 October 2021. White papers must be received by 31 January 2022, 6pm GST*. Submissions after that date will not be accepted.
Shortlisted semi finalist teams will complete inspection and intervention tasks via simulation in the presence of a judging committee. Proof-of-concept videos on different subcomponents of their system need to be submitted to demonstrate the feasibility of the approach used.
The demonstration should cover the following elements of the challenge:
- Multi-UAV search and inspection of large representative structures;
- Intra-swarm communication and collective decision-making; and
- Collective lift and transport of larger objects to a home location.
The final live demonstration will be held over several days in June 2023 in a specially designated maritime area off the coast of Abu Dhabi, when five finalist teams will put their systems to the test.
Judging will be against the clock, with total time to complete the Inspection and Intervention tasks (plus penalties) determining the winner. There will be a maximum qualification time: failure to complete the tasks within that time will not be considered successful. If conditions allow, teams will be given multiple opportunities to complete the tasks.
*Please note that is an initial timeline, which maybe subject to change. Any changes to the timeline will be announced on the website.
MBZIRC Maritime Grand Challenge teams will utilise a heterogeneous unmanned system comprising:
1 autonomous Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV) with a manipulation arm, provided by ASPIRE.
A swarm of between 5 and 20 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), provided by each competing team. UAVs may land on, take off from and recharge on the USV.
No other device or equipment is allowed besides the ‘USV+UAV swarm’ system.
The entire ‘USV+UAV swarm’ system must work in a GNSS denied environment.
No extra-system communications are allowed (except those provided by the challenge organisers for security and safety purposes). However, intra-system communication is permitted. For example, the USV could hold a base station (such as a femtocell) to augment the capabilities of the UAV swarm.
The MBZIRC Maritime Grand Challenge has two principal tasks: Inspection and Intervention.
The UAV swarm is used to monitor a large surface area of water to identify vessels that are in motion. Out of the total number of vessels present, there will be a subset of “target” vessels. Once a vessel is identified, the UAV swarm deploys to determine whether or not it is a target by scanning the vessel. The following outcomes should be transmitted to the USV:
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 is 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 proceeds to the intervention task.
For each vessel that is potentially classified as a target:
- video(s) streaming 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 have made an incorrect collective decision, the team will be penalised by increasing the mission completion time by a pre-defined number of minutes. The swarm will then resume searching.
When a vessel is identified as a target, the operator selects items to be retrieved from that vessel.
- The items must be picked up from the vessel and transported by the UAVs to the USV, either collectively or via individual transport.
- One of the target vessels will have items that are too large to be collected by the UAVs. 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 coordinated USV locomotion and manipulation, and must account for potentially adverse sea conditions. The large objects collected by the manipulation arm are to be deposited on the deck of the USV.
- After all items have been collected from the target vessel, the swarm will resume exploring and decide whether all target vessels have been found.
- The mission is considered completed after a pre-defined finish time or the moment when the “USV+UAV swarm” system has determined that there are no more target vessels in the area and has landed back on the USV, whichever is earlier.
The Maritime Grand Challenge is an opportunity for you to compete with the world’s leading innovators in autonomous robotics.
We believe collaboration to be the key to innovation. Therefore, we invite international universities, research institutions and individual innovators from all over the world to partner with commercial entities to form teams.
Once registered, teams will be invited to an online discussion forum to further collaborate, exchange ideas, expertise and at the same time provide a platform to ask questions to the organisers