Open Robotics to Provide World-Class Open-Source Simulator for ASPIRE’s MBZIRC Maritime Grand Challenge

Upcoming phase will require semi-finalists to complete inspection and intervention tasks in simulation



ASPIRE, the technology program management arm of Abu Dhabi’s Advanced Technology Research Council (ATRC), today announced that Open Robotics will be providing the open-source simulator for the Simulation Phase of the MBZIRC Maritime Grand Challenge. The technology will incorporate historic weather data from the Swiss-firm meteoblue for the upcoming phase of the competition, which will see semi-finalists complete inspection and intervention tasks in simulation.

Open Robotics, a global leader in software for robotics simulation and application development, will build the simulation platform on Gazebo and Robot Operating System (ROS). Gazebo is an open-source 3D robotics simulator, which accurately and efficiently simulates robots for a wide range of applications, including maritime robotics. It has a robust physics engine, advanced 3D graphics and programmatic interfaces, including integration with ROS. Gazebo also offers an online 3D model repository, Fuel, that offers various robot and environment 3D assets readily available for simulation.

The meteorological service company, meteoblue, that delivers high-quality weather information worldwide for any point on land or sea in the world, will allow competitors to use historical Abu Dhabi weather data from the past 20 years to simulate realistic weather conditions.


Dr. Ray O. Johnson, Acting Chief Executive of ASPIRE, said: “With Open Robotics and meteoblue, we have selected two organizations that are both at the pinnacle of their respective fields. The MBZIRC Maritime Grand Challenge will push the boundaries in maritime robotics; we are providing the competitors with a world-class simulation environment with Open Robotics and meteoblue.”

The simulation environment created for the MBZIRC Maritime Grand Challenge will consist of a large coastal region, UAVs with different sensor configurations, a USV model, a robot manipulator, and multiple target vessels. A set of ROS 2 APIs – or Application Programming Interfaces – will be exposed for controlling robots and reading data from sensors in simulation. Inter-robot communication will be provided through a separate set of APIs, and the communication links are subject to package loss and interferences that are common in outdoor wireless communication.

The Robot Operating System (ROS) is a set of software libraries and tools for building robot applications. From drivers to state-of-the-art algorithms, and with powerful developer tools, ROS has what one needs for a robotics project.

“We are making all the software open source,” Johnson continued. “Our mission is to drive the creation of transformative technologies and encourage global collaboration to help stimulate innovation across the field of maritime robotics. Sharing the technology to help make innovation easier was our goal.”




Brian Gerkey of Open Robotics expressed delight to be part of MBZIRC Maritime Grand Challenge as he underscored the organization’s mission to support the development, distribution, and adoption of open-source software for use in robotics research, education, and product development. “In our effort to be the hub of the global robotics community, we create open software and hardware platforms for robotics that can be used by the scientific community to solve important problems. The MBZIRC Maritime Grand Challenge is a fantastic example of this, and we’re really excited to be a part of the competition,” he commented.

Open Robotics offers two open platforms: ROS and Gazebo so robots can be programmed with ROS and simulated with Gazebo. “These platforms are widely used around the world, from production deployments to classroom projects,” he added.

The MBZIRC simulation platform will run on Ubuntu 20.04 (Focal). Users can install the software from source for local testing and development. In addition, Docker images of the simulation setup will also be made available.

The MBZIRC Maritime Grand Challenge simulator is available at

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