Masdar Institute and URS Laboratories Collaborative URS Guided Drone Transportation System Compete for UAE AI & Robotics for Good Award

September 21, 2018

The collaboratively developed unmanned rover system (URS) GDTS-SXM1 created by Masdar Institute and URS Laboratories Ltd earned fourth place in the UAE Artificial Intelligence (AI) & Robotics Award for Good.

Winners of the award, which supports innovation in the AI and robotics sector with the aim of encouraging research and innovative solutions to solve existing challenges, were announced earlier this month in Dubai.

The Masdar Institute and URS Laboratories’ guided drone transportation system (GDTS) uses complex and innovative robotics and AI combined with custom made, revolutionary all-terrain delivery platforms to reach difficult terrains, which can assist in disaster relief and recovery.

“We expect that once complete, the URS robotic platforms will be more cost-effective in critical situations than traditional humanitarian relief aid options, such as truck convoys, air drops and expensive, dangerous, helicopter landings on the front lines of conflict zones. URS is ready to defeat human suffering today and can be implemented on a moment’s notice with no need to wait or train expensive crews that have to be alert 24/7. One of the important potential global applications for the URS would be to aid in the removal of landmines from old minefields,” explained Dr. Steve Griffiths, Vice President and Interim Associate Provost, Masdar Institute.

Some of the capabilities of the URS platforms will include remote control operation that will allow direct human input to drive the vehicle remotely; a “follow-me” system that enables the vehicle to follow the driver once he dismounts the vehicle; “return home” capabilities that enables the vehicle to return by fastest means to a fixed point without driver intervention; shuttle abilities that allow the vehicle to shuttle supplies between bases; and waypoint-follow that enables the driver to send the vehicle ahead to the waypoint and then return to a preselected destination.

“The UAE AI & Robotics Award for Good competition, along with the amazing support from Masdar Institute, has super-charged and accelerated our involvement in the UAE. URS Labs has worked to quickly identify Emirati companies we can partner with to maximize content from ‘made-in-the-UAE’ products and services to support the sustainable manufacturing center we are hoping to become for the UAE,” explained Matthew Cochran, CEO and Co-Founder of URS Laboratories.

“Winning the competition would mean that we can invest in R&D in the UAE for cutting-edge technologies like sensor development, avoidance software and hardware, and developing the local satellite communications required for our system’s expanded data link capabilities,” he added.

The URS development program was conceived in conjunction with the Partnering to Achieve Innovation in Defense & Aerospace (PAIDA) Working Group, which was established in 2015 by Masdar Institute and the marketing incubator organization Defense Services Marketing Council (DSMC) to stimulate R&D and innovation in military and defense applications. The two parties agreed that robotic systems applied to military applications would be an essential direction for innovation in the UAE, which later resulted in the launch of the URS program.

Since the URS program kick-off meeting last October, the URS platform development program has been incorporated into a company called URS Laboratories Limited, and it is currently in the process of establishing its head office in Masdar City. The company has now expanded its collaborations and technology development activities to include different tracks, enabling the development of several variants of the unmanned vehicle based on different technologies and inputs from different collaborating organizations to create more than one URS platform.

The Awards for Good, which includes both the UAE Drones for Good Award and the UAE AI & Robotics Award demonstrates the UAE government’s commitment to encouraging the development of technology to serve people. This year marks the second time a Masdar Institute supported project has been selected as a finalist.

Erica Solomon
News and Feature Writer
14 February 2017