NaviGators AMS Win First Place at the 2016 Maritime RobotX Challenge

The UF’s Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering’s NaviGator AMS was awarded first place in the 2016 Maritime RobotX Challenge, an international event held December 11-18, 2016, in Oahu, Hawaii. Thirteen teams from around the world competed for $100,000 in prizes.

The NaviGator AMS is a set of maritime vehicles built for the challenge by students in the Machine Intelligence Laboratory (MIL). The lab has been competing in robotic competitions since the 90s, and this year, teamed up with the Center for Intelligent Machines and Robotics (CIMAR) lab, undergraduates, and graduate students to compete. The main autonomous vehicle that constitutes the NaviGator AMS project was built upon a Wave Adaptive Modular Vessel (WAM-V) boat. The boat was donated to the team in December 2015, and it includes two pontoons and a superstructure.

Andrew Gray, a Ph.D. student with a major in electrical and computer engineering, was one of the team leaders. Gray has been a part of the team since the idea to compete was brought up in 2014. Dr. Carl Crane, who is a professor in the Department of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, and who is an affiliate of the UFTI, served as one of the faculty advisers to the team.

“This was the biggest project I’ve ever done,” Gray said. “It’s not something just anyone can jump into. It was a culmination of projects and skills from a very experienced team.”

The hardest part for the team was the logistics; this included getting trailers to transport the boat, which had to be driven specifically by faculty. The boat’s software went through 135 hours of in-water testing and ran through 600 hours of simulation.

The competition was hosted in an enclosed area with only one side of the shoal water exposed to the ocean. There were no buildings to block the wind, creating the challenge of constant tides for the participants. Boats were required to navigate through a series of obstacles, locate underwater acoustic transmitters, deploy racquetballs into targets, locate a buoy and report the color sequence it generates.

After their win in Hawaii, there is discussion of participating in the 2018 competition. Until then, the boat will be used for research.