Embry-Riddle's Minion ASV impresses during Maritime Robot X Challenge

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Students at Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University recently debuted their Minion autonomous surface vessel during the Maritime Robot X Challenge in December 2018.

Built by engineering student members of the Robotics Association at Embry–Riddle, the 16-foot long boat navigated an open water obstacle course, adapted to the waves and wind on the bay, and launched and recovered a small submarine before returning to dock.

According to Embry-Riddle, the Minion was created to compete in the Maritime Robot X Challenge, which is a weeklong biennial international competition co-sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR), RoboNation, and a Hawaii-based company called NAVATEK that designs ships and other amphibious vehicles.

The goal of the challenge was to create an autonomous surface vessel that could demonstrate conducting a variety of tasks without human or computer interaction, including navigation and control, obstacle avoidance, and detection and delivery, all while traversing a course of seven increasingly difficult, maritime-related tests. 

Embry-Riddle’s student team that designed and built the Minion won all five of the static judging awards at the Robot X Challenge, including best journal paper, oral presentation, team video, team website and system inspection.

The Embry-Riddle team finished third overall, and was the highest scoring team of the seven universities from the U.S.

“Many of the competition judges from the ONR, industry and academia let us know how impressed they were with our boat’s systems and with our team,” says Dr. Eric Coyle, one of four faculty advisors for Team Minion.

“Our students were also recognized several times throughout the week of competition for helping other teams with technical and equipment issues.”

Embry-Riddle is no stranger to these types of competitions, as the university has also participated in other international autonomous vehicle events such as the Roboboat and RoboSub collegiate competitions.

Embry-Riddle’s success in these past competitions played a role in the ONR awarding Embry-Riddle a five-year, $900,000 research grant in 2017 to continue developing advanced communication, perception and energy systems for USVs.