ASPIRE announces semifinalists for MBZIRC Maritime Grand Challenge

14 teams from across the globe make it to the semifinals



ASPIRE, the business development and program management pillar of Abu Dhabi’s Advanced Technology Research Council (ATRC) and the organizer of MBZIRC Maritime Grand Challenge, has announced the semifinalists of the competition from across the globe.

The 14 semifinalists announced by ASPIRE will now compete in the simulation phase of the competition. Up to five finalist teams from the semifinalists will proceed to the demonstration phase, the finals of which will be held in Abu Dhabi in October 2023 with a total prize money of over US $3 million.

The goal of the competition is to help solve the globally-important issues of piracy, smuggling, and illegal fishing. The jury and judging panel of MBZIRC Maritime Grand Challenge evaluated the whitepapers submitted by teams from across the globe and shortlisted the 14 teams. The panel comprised eminent scientists representing different fields of robotics.

The semifinalists are Airborne Robotics [UK], Argo’s Crew [Belgium], Fly Eagle [China-UAE], HiPeRT [Italy], MBZUAI Team [UAE-Canada-Montenegro-US], ROC [Denmark-Sweden], SKALP Robotics Association [Poland], Sky-Eye [Spain], Team KAIST [Republic of Korea], Team Luna [India], UNIZG-FER Team [Croatia], UNSW Competitive Robotics Group [Australia], Warsaw MIMotaurs [Poland], and ZJU-HI [China].

“With the shortlisting of the semifinalists of this iconic challenge, we have reached a critical phase of the competition. We were very happy with the quality of whitepaper submissions from across the globe – and the jury and the judging panel had a tough time selecting the semifinalists. Congratulations to all the teams that have progressed to the next round. We also appreciate and are thankful to all the teams that were not selected – you should be proud of your accomplishments,” said Dr. Ray O. Johnson, CEO of TII and ASPIRE.

The Maritime Grand Challenge, part of the Mohammed Bin Zayed International Robotics Competition (MBZIRC) series, invited applications from universities, research institutions, companies, and individual innovators last year. Hundreds of participants from around the world registered for the competition since its announcement in October 2021.

The challenge attracted a high volume of entries, coupled with requests for additional time from some contestants, which was taken into consideration for the extension of the deadline for the whitepaper submission until January 31, 2022. In the shortlisting phase, the judges accorded 40 per cent weightage to a team’s technical qualifications, while their proposed approach to solving the challenge carried 60 per cent weightage.

Dr. Johnson added: “The quality of the submissions demonstrates the level of competence being displayed from the teams competing in the MBZIRC Maritime Grand Challenge. With its focus on innovation, creativity, research, and development, this competition will set a milestone in the advancement of autonomous technologies to find creative solutions to complex system of systems challenges for global good.”

The Maritime Grand Challenge involves a heterogeneous collaboration among unmanned aerial and surface vehicles, requiring them to perform complex navigation and manipulation tasks in a GNSS-denied marine environment.

In the Simulation phase involving the 14 semifinalists, ASPIRE will provide the open-source simulator for developing the proof of concept while completing their inspection and intervention tasks in simulation.

Part of the MBZIRC Maritime Grand Challenge’s commitment to give back to the robotics community and facilitating innovation, the open-source simulator will be provided by Open Robotics, the global leader in software for robotics simulation and application development.

The simulator will use historical weather data provided by ‘meteoblue’ to simulate realistic weather conditions during the challenge. The simulation environment created for the challenge will consist of a large coastal region, UAVs with different sensor configurations, a USV model, a robot manipulator, and multiple target vessels.

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