Teams prepare for robot wars showdown in Abu Dhabi

Twenty-six teams will compete in Abu Dhabi for a total prize money of $5 million

Twenty-six teams will take part in the Mohammed bin Zayed International Robotics Challenge. Vidhyaa for The National
Powered by automated translation

ABU DHABI // Drones landing on moving vehicles and robots working in teams to lift heavy objects will be part of a display that will be open to the public.

Twenty-six teams will compete for US$5 million (Dh18.35 million) in prize money for the winners of the Mohammed bin Zayed International Robotics Challenge.

Some of the best minds in the field of robotics will compete at the three-day event, which begins at Yas Island Marina circuit today.

The 26 teams were selected from 143 candidates and include postgraduate students, researchers and academics from Imperial College London, Virginia Tech, the University of Tokyo, the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology and the UAE’s Khalifa University.

“It’s not just about the prize money but there is also a lot of prestige on the line,” said Professor Lakmal Seneviratne, the founding director of the Robotics Institute at Khalifa University.

“You have some of the top professionals in the industry who are being stretched to their limits with these challenges.”

One challenge will involve the teams launching pre-programmed unmanned aerial vehicles which will be tasked to locate, track and land on a moving vehicle.

Another will involve working to locate, lift, and move objects within 30 minutes.

Thirty minutes will also be given for the completion of a further test that requires a ground-based robot to find a panel, select a spanner to operate on it, and use the tool to attach a valve stem.

The fourth and final Grand Challenge will ask teams to complete all of the first three assignments simultaneously, awarding the winner US$1 million.

Winners of each of the first three will be offered US$350,000.

A panel of judges will not only award points for finishing the tasks but also reward teams with the most autonomous robots.

“We do allow human intervention but it will be heavily penalised because the focus is on autonomous behaviour,” said Dr Seneviratne.

Despite robots having advanced greatly in recent years many still rely, to different degrees, on human assistance.

Dr Seneviratne said the competition would help push the technology further and develop the UAE’s technological sector.

“The prediction is that this will be a big industry in the future and if you want to decrease the reliance on oil and gas in the local economy this will be a good way forward.”

Another key aim of the competition was to increase interest in the field among students.

“Robotics is a field that utilises a number of disciplines and we hope to inspire students to take interest in Stem subjects, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.”

The contest is open to the public on all three days with the venue providing visitors entertainment and food stalls.