On Wednesday, July 12th, the 1st RoBoat Race (Autonomous Robotic Vessels Competition) took place successfully in Syros. The competition was organized by the SmartMove laboratory of the University of the Aegean, with the support of the Nautical Club of Syros, the Hellenic Institute of Nautical Technology, the Municipality of Syros-Hermoupolis, UNESCO, the IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society, and the European Commission. The event was funded by the European Union through the research projects CREXDATA and RELAR.
The competition aims to highlight, promote, and reward innovative ideas that will be used in shipping, while fostering healthy competition. It is an innovative event that showcases capabilities and skills, promoting innovation, seamanship, and technological advancements and encouraging private sector cooperation.
Students designed and developed autonomous robotic vessels, which competed under real sea conditions in speed, endurance, and obstacle avoidance challenges. During the competitions, the teams programmed their vessels based on specific coordinates to achieve the test objectives. The first challenge was a speed race, similar to a sailing regatta. The second challenge aimed to demonstrate a successful collision avoidance system with other vessels and obstacles (scattered buoys), while the third challenge focused on the endurance of the vessel and its systems for longer distance voyages.
The design and development of an autonomous vessel represent a complex technical endeavor with high complexity. Factors affecting the vessel’s construction, including scheduling, costs, material quality, systems, and algorithms, make it an exceptionally intricate project. As Pierre de Coubertin (reviver of the Olympic Games) once said, “The important thing in life is not the triumph, but the struggle.”
The teams competed not against each other but to successfully complete the challenges. The top three positions were awarded to the vessel of the team from the Department of Product and Systems Design Engineering of the Polytechnic School of the University of the Aegean, the vessel from the Department of Computer Science & Engineering of the University of Ioannina, and the vessel of the team from the Underwater Systems and Technology Laboratory of the University of Porto (Portugal).
Significant contributions were made by the Charitable Foundation Anthony E. Comninos, which offered cash prizes of 1,500 euros, 1,000 euros, and 500 euros to the top three winning teams, respectively.
Simultaneously, during the period from July 3rd to 12th, a summer school was held at the Department of Product and Systems Design Engineering, aiming to educate participants in maritime informatics and maritime technology, with a particular focus on robotics. The summer school included seminars and practical workshops conducted by professors from the department and collaborating institutions, providing participants with hands-on learning experiences and preparing the teams for the final competitions. The students engaged in designing and developing complex technical projects, such as constructing an autonomous surface or underwater vessel.