UWE Bristol's 'agile' robot submarine wins prize in European underwater challenge

Issue date: 11 July 2013

Phoenix UWE Bristol's underwater robot submarine

A robot underwater submarine built by a team of BSc Robotics students from UWE Bristol has come second in a prestigious European challenge competition.

Called Phoenix, the robot outmanoeuvred six teams in the week-long challenge to win the 2000 euro runner-up prize. This is the fourth time that UWE has been invited to take part and is its biggest success to date, having previously won the prize for innovation.

The students – Andrew Bremer, Matt Huxford, Chris Cronin, Chris Bird, Kaya Sinclair, Queron Williams and captain Dan Davies – were supported by staff from UWE's department of Engineering Design and Maths.

Senior Robotics Lecturer Dr Matt Studley said, “I am delighted that the UWESub team has won second prize at SAUC-E 2013, battling with teams from all round Europe.

“Some of the team only slept for ten hours in the last three days and really pulled out all the stops, fighting to the finish. Their fantastic team spirit was noted by judges and was a contributing factor to the award.”

The 2013 Student Autonomous Underwater Challenge (SAUC-E 2013) is an annual competition designed to challenge the next generation of engineers in the field of robotics. The teams have to design and construct autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) capable of performing real world tasks, from passing through obstacles to surveying pipelines on the sea bed. The AUVs must perform these tasks with no control, guidance or communication from a person or from any off-board computer including GPS systems.

Director of UWE's Science Communication Unit Professor Alan Winfield said, “Watching the competition at La Spezia in Italy I was hugely impressed by the UWESub team - both for the quality and technical sophistication of their autonomous robot submarine, and their energy, enthusiasm and commitment.

“The agility and manoeuvrability of their robot in the water is deeply impressive. They are a real credit to the department, the robotics programme, and UWE.”

The University of Cambridge's AUV 'Barracuda' obtained the highest score performing a number of mission tasks. The second prize went to UWE with 'Phoenix', while the 'FeelHippo' team from the University of Florence took home the third prize - both these were awarded for the overall effort and the high quality performance in and out of the water.

Other prizes awarded were to the University Polytechnic of Marche team that won the 'Rookie of the Year Award', the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria that won the 'Persistence Award and Heriot Watt University that won the 'Navigator Award'. ENSTA Bretagne, with two teams, won the 'Gambler Award' and the '1st Qualifier Award'.

The competition was held from 28 June to 5 July 2013 and was hosted by the NATO Centre for Maritime Research and Experimentation (CMRE), formerly known as the NATO Undersea Research Centre (NURC), at La Spezia, Italy.

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