Britannia rules the waves in marine robot competition

The finalists of a £1.5m competition to develop systems capable of controlling a fleet of autonomous marine vehicles for the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) have been announced.

Two British consortia, SeeByte in partnership with ASV and the Marine Biological Association (MBA) and University of Exeter in partnership with Marine South East and the Met Office, have been selected from an initial pool of nine entries to produce a design for the vehicles to track, sample and gather data from the ocean floor.

The two groups are now entering the second phase of the competition that was launched in September 2014 by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) in partnership with the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) and Innovate UK. The initial process involved the competitors submitting feasibility studies before the best two were selected to produce prototype systems that were capable of demonstrating capabilities at sea.  

Mario Brito, Senior Risk Analyst at the NOC and Programme Manager for this SBRI call said: “The problem set out in the adaptive autonomous ocean sampling network Small Business Research Initiative call was very challenging. The response was a number of very innovative approaches, presenting new ways for optimal ocean feature sampling using marine autonomous systems. We are all excited about the solutions proposed by the two winning consortiums and we are looking forward to work with the companies in phase two.”

The two consortia will now spend the next 12 months working on their systems, with the earliest marine testing set to begin in February 2016.

Geraint West, Head of National Marine Facilities at the NOC, said: “We have been excited by the response to this challenge, as it represents truly cutting edge thinking in autonomous monitoring of the ocean. The previous competition produced two excellent surface vehicles which have already allowed us to explore new ways of undertaking science at sea.”

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