KAUST wins GSA Special Prize at ERL Emergency Local Tournament 2019

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16 April 2019
The winning KAUST team at the ERL Emergency Local Tournament in Seville.
The winning KAUST team at the ERL Emergency Local Tournament in Seville.

A team from the Robotics, Intelligent Systems, and Control (RISC) lab at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia were the lucky winners of the GSA Special Prize at this year’s ERL Emergency Local Tournament, which took place in the fields surrounding the ‘Hacienda de Oran’ in Seville on 18-23 February.

The ERL Emergency Service Robots is a Horizon 2020-funded civilian robotics competition that promotes the development of multi-domain robotic systems for emergency response within the robotics community. The competition requires international teams to survey a scene, collect data, search for specific elements and identify critical hazards, all in a race against the clock.

On February 18-23, teams from international universities and research centres met in Seville to participate in the second ERL Local Tournament, hosted by the Advanced Centre for Aerospace Technologies (CATEC). At the competition, teams of engineers and scientists linked to robotics and unmanned systems presented their latest innovations in the application of these technologies in emergency situations, such as rescue operations, firefighting or natural disasters.

“CATEC was responsible for hosting and organizing this international competition, which was held for the first time in Spain, thanks to its leadership and experience in the development of new technological applications in this field,” said Dr Francisco Javier Pérez Grau, Head of the CATEC Perception & Software Unit. “This event has once again made Andalusia a benchmark for applied research and new innovative developments in robotics and unmanned systems, with a view to their real application in the market.”

A rewarding experience

The GSA special prize targeted robots that make use of solutions based on Galileo and EGNOS. For air robots, the challenge involved both horizontal accuracy in landings and vertical accuracy while hovering at specific geographic coordinates. Land robots were judged on horizontal accuracy during waypoint-based navigation.

The KAUST team, with principal investigator Prof. Jeff Shamma, participated in the air robot challenge and found the experience to be very rewarding. “I am very happy that we made the effort to take part in the tournament. On a personal level it was a very enjoyable experience. But it was also extremely rewarding on a technical level, as the team gained valuable experience in quickly resolving complex problems in the field,” said team leader Kuat Telegenov. “Even preparations for the event were rewarding – as we had to think outside the box to deal with all the issues that arose.”

He said that, initially, the team wasn’t sure if they would participate, because they didn’t have a Galileo-enabled receiver. “But we checked on the UseGalileo.eu website to see which receivers we could use and, in the end, went with a u-blox MAX-M8.”

The team acknowledged the edge that they received from Galileo in terms of accuracy. “We hit our waypoints with an accuracy of around 2.2 meters. We believe that, with GPS alone the accuracy would be about 2.5-3 meters, so we had a significant accuracy gain from Galileo,” Telegenov said.

Prize partnership

For its Special Prize, the GSA partnered with GNSS receiver manufacturer Septentrio, which offered an AsteRx-i S receiver to the winning team. With its size, weight and power consumption, the AsteRx-i S is ideal for applications such as inspection with UAV's, UAS photogrammetry, automation, robotics and logistics.

“Septentrio is proud to support the ERL emergency 2019 competition,” said Septentrio Product Manager Francesca Clemente. “We are driven by a strong customer focus and deep understanding of applications and use cases. Our professional products are not only able to provide reliable and precise positioning but are also easy to integrate and utilise thanks to intuitive web UI, tools and interfaces,” she said, adding: “This makes it ideal for young university teams where performance and ease of use are key to develop new solution in a short time.”

“We congratulate the winning team and we are eager to see the AsteRx-i S integrated their innovative robotics and unmanned solutions!”

About the tournament

The European Robotics League (ERL) is an innovative robot competition that stems from its predecessors - the euRathlon and RoCKIn competitions - and focuses on tasks that robots must execute in realistic emergency situations. The competition is composed of multiple local tournaments, held in different locations across Europe, in addition to a number of major events.

Teams participate in a minimum of two tournaments (local and/or major) per year and get scores based on their performances. Each team’s top two tournament scores are then added together and the teams are ranked based on their cumulative score. Prizes for the top teams are awarded at the following year’s European Robotics Forum (ERF).

Media note: This feature can be republished without charge provided the European GNSS Agency (GSA) is acknowledged as the source at the top or the bottom of the story. You must request permission before you use any of the photographs on the site. If you republish, we would be grateful if you could link back to the GSA website (http://www.gsa.europa.eu).

Updated: Dec 08, 2022