euRathlon 2015 sets sea robotics challenge in the wake of Fukushima

Issue date: 06 June 2014


The euRathlon 2014 sea robotics competition will challenge teams of students and engineers to perform autonomous missions in the marine environment in scenarios inspired by the 2011 Fukushima accident.

The competition will take place in Italy from 29 September - 3 October 2014 and aims to advance the state-of-the-art in Autonomous Underwater/Surface Vehicles.

The competition will be held at the Centre for Maritime Research and Experimentation (CMRE) in La Spezia, Italy. It will take place in the sheltered harbour at the CMRE waterfront and will give participants the opportunity to face real life conditions such as limited visibility and salt water.

euRathlon is a three year project, funded by the European Commission, which is led by UWE Bristol's Professor Alan Winfield with seven European partners.

Competition scenarios for euRathlon 2014 have been designed to lead up to the euRathlon 2015 Grand Challenge, in which ground, marine and aerial robots will have to work together. Five different marine scenarios have been proposed for 2014: 'Long range autonomous underwater navigation', 'Environmental survey of the accident area', 'Leak localisation and structure inspection', 'Interaction with underwater structures' and a 'Combined scenario'.

Multi-disciplinary teams and their robot vehicles may compete in one or more scenarios. All scenario tasks can be undertaken by a single Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV). However, in some scenarios a team can compete using only an Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV), or a combination of USV and AUV. The participation of tele-operated Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) is limited to the manipulation scenario.

UWE's team, called UWESub, consists of team captain Chris Bird, Raphael Nagel, Sam Hughes, Hugo Hall, Queron Williams, James Killick, James Ferrand and their AUV Phoenix. All are studying for a BEng in Robotics apart from Raphael who is studying for an MSc in Robotics.

Senior Robotics Lecturer Dr Matt Studley said, “This year the UWESub team will enter challenges consisting of autonomous navigation in the 'open water' and navigation along structures. Phoenix has to find anomalies in a harbour wall, create a map of the seabed and inspect a structure composed of pipes under water. Finally the Phoenix will attempt to activate a number of valves on the structure, simulating a disaster response scenario like dealing with a submerged leak of dangerous chemicals.

“In the euRathlon 2015 combined challenge the Phoenix will be guided by a surface vehicle, allowing GPS-like positioning and low-cost communication while submerged.

“Last year the team did extremely well despite limited resources and we are happy that the euRathlon organisers have loaned us a DVL (Doppler Velocity Log) for measuring velocity over ground. This allows our robot to position and control itself with much greater accuracy and reliability and will hopefully help us win the competition.”

The euRathlon 2014 organisers will provide teams with access to dedicated practice areas and the possibility to interact with some objects used during the Student Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Challenge – Europe (SAUC-E). SAUC-E) and euRathlon are two separate events but will be organised back-to-back in 2014.

Teams participating in euRathlon may comprise any combination of students, engineers, faculty, industrial partners or government partners with a maximum of 10 people per team. Students may be undergraduate or postgraduate.

Full information on the mission scenarios for the euRathlon 2014 sea robotics challenge see can be found on the euRathlon website and the related euRathlon forum.

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