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Team KAIST placed among top two at MBZIRC Maritime Grand Challenge​
View : 1272 Date : 2024-02-09 Writer : PR Office

Representing Korean Robotics at Sea: KAIST’s 26-month strife rewarded

Team KAIST placed among top two at MBZIRC Maritime Grand Challenge


- Team KAIST, composed of students from the labs of Professor Jinwhan Kim of the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Professor Hyunchul Shim of the School of Electrical and Engineering, came through the challenge as the first runner-up winning the prize money totaling up to $650,000 (KRW 860 million).

- Successfully led the autonomous collaboration of unmanned aerial and maritime vehicles using cutting-edge robotics and AI technology through to the final round of the competition held in Abu Dhabi from January 10 to February 6, 2024.

KAIST (President Kwang-Hyung Lee), reported on the 8th that Team KAIST, led by students from the labs of Professor Jinwhan Kim of the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Professor Hyunchul Shim of the School of Electrical Engineering, with Pablo Aviation as a partner, won a total prize money of $650,000 (KRW 860 million) at the Maritime Grand Challenge by the Mohamed Bin Zayed International Robotics Challenge (MBZIRC), finishing first runner-up.

This competition, which is the largest ever robotics competition held over water, is sponsored by the government of the United Arab Emirates and organized by ASPIRE, an organization under the Abu Dhabi Ministry of Science, with a total prize money of $3 million.


In the competition, which started at the end of 2021, 52 teams from around the world participated and five teams were selected to go on to the finals in February 2023 after going through the first and second stages of screening. The final round was held from January 10 to February 6, 2024, using actual unmanned ships and drones in a secluded sea area of 10 km2 off the coast of Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. A total of 18 KAIST students and Professor Jinwhan Kim and Professor Hyunchul Shim took part in this competition at the location at Abu Dhabi.

Team KAIST will receive $500,000 in prize money for taking second place in the final, and the team’s prize money totals up to $650,000 including $150,000 that was as special midterm award for finalists.

The final mission scenario is to find the target vessel on the run carrying illegal cargoes among many ships moving within the GPS-disabled marine surface, and inspect the deck for two different types of stolen cargo to recover them using the aerial vehicle to bring the small cargo and the robot manipulator topped on an unmanned ship to retrieve the larger one. The true aim of the mission is to complete it through autonomous collaboration of the unmanned ship and the aerial vehicle without human intervention throughout the entire mission process. In particular, since GPS cannot be used in this competition due to regulations, Professor Jinwhan Kim's research team developed autonomous operation techniques for unmanned ships, including searching and navigating methods using maritime radar, and Professor Hyunchul Shim's research team developed video-based navigation and a technology to combine a small autonomous robot with a drone. 

The final mission is to retrieve cargo on board a ship fleeing at sea through autonomous collaboration between unmanned ships and unmanned aerial vehicles without human intervention. The overall mission consists the first stage of conducting the inspection to find the target ship among several ships moving at sea and the second stage of conducting the intervention mission to retrieve the cargoes on the deck of the ship. Each team was given a total of three opportunities, and the team that completed the highest-level mission in the shortest time during the three attempts received the highest score.

In the first attempt, KAIST was the only team to succeed in the first stage search mission, but the competition began in earnest as the Croatian team also completed the first stage mission in the second attempt. As the competition schedule was delayed due to strong winds and high waves that continued for several days, the organizers decided to hold the finals with the three teams, including the Team KAIST and the team from Croatia’s the University of Zagreb, which completed the first stage of the mission, and Team Fly-Eagle, a team of researcher from China and UAE that partially completed the first stage. The three teams were given the chance to proceed to the finals and try for the third attempt, and in the final competition, the Croatian team won, KAIST took the second place, and the combined team of UAE-China combined team took the third place. The final prize to be given for the winning team is set at $2 million with $500,000 for the runner-up team, and $250,000 for the third-place.

Professor Jinwhan Kim of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, who served as the advisor for Team KAIST, said, “I would like to express my gratitude and congratulations to the students who put in a huge academic and physical efforts in preparing for the competition over the past two years. I feel rewarded because, regardless of the results, every bit of efforts put into this up to this point will become the base of their confidence and a valuable asset in their growth into a great researcher.” Sol Han, a doctoral student in mechanical engineering who served as the team leader, said, “I am disappointed of how narrowly we missed out on winning at the end, but I am satisfied with the significance of the output we’ve got and I am grateful to the team members who worked hard together for that.”

HD Hyundai, Rainbow Robotics, Avikus, and FIMS also participated as sponsors for Team KAIST's campaign.


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