MBZIRC: The World’s Preeminent Robotics Competition

Khalifa University will host the Mohammed Bin Zayed International Robotics Challenge (MBZIRC), one of the world’s largest and most prestigious robotics competitions, set to begin February 2020. The MBZIRC is an international biennial competition that selects over 20 robotics teams from top universities around the world to compete in Abu Dhabi during a 3-day event, where they will compete for USD 5 Million worth of total prize and team sponsorship.

MBZIRC encourages innovation and demands technical expertise as teams align their project plan to stringent reporting protocols in advance of a bold and yet practical competition. Particularly relevant to metropolises like Abu Dhabi, the challenges presented aim to advance robotics to resolve the real problems faced in smart cities. The ambitious competition attracts the brightest and most competent teams from leading academic institutions across the globe in an effort to solve real problems and make a lasting impact on people’s lives. Among the teams competing are two top 20 universities globally, with 21 countries taking part. Khalifa University is sponsoring 21 teams for a total amount of USD 3.5 million, and offering a prize fund for each challenge of AED 1,000,000.

Teams selected for the competition are tested in three major areas of relevance with practical impact in the future of smart cities, helping authorities around the world to further develop and capitalize upon the opportunities that unmanned vehicles present while mitigating the risks they create.

Challenge 1:

Drones flying too close to airports and military installations pose a risk to safety and security, a scenario that authorities have to contend with as technology evolves rapidly. In the first round of challenges, team unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) will track and intercept targets autonomously, simulating innovative ways to track and detain rogue drones in sensitive areas.

Challenge 2:

In rescue situations, autonomous vehicles must be able to manipulate objects in order to remove debris or assemble components into useful tools. The second round of challenges requires the teams’ unmanned aerial and ground vehicles to coordinate as they locate, collect, transport, and assemble different pieces into a pre-defined shape in an environment that simulates a real world disaster.

Challenge 3:

High-rise fires are a disturbing and prevalent prospect that authorities must contend with in modern cities. In the third challenge, the competing team drones will fight simulated fires without human input. The unmanned vehicles, aerial and ground based, will have to collaborate to identify threats and eliminate them.

Grand Challenge:

The Grand Challenge is poised to test the teams’ dedication and ingenuity as the unmanned vehicles are put through the ringer while they compete in a triathlon that encompasses all of the challenges into one encompassing course. In successfully completing the challenges, the teams will have showcased their expertise in programming, machine learning, robotics, and overall engineering. The winners of the Grand Challenge will walk away with AED 2,000,000.

While solving real world problems, the competition encourages innovation in robotics, AI, and materials printing; all major components that must be addressed before drones can become more than recreational toys and actualized as potent tools to improve safety and security. Robotics has the potential to have an impact that is as transformative as the internet, and robotic competitions are the ultimate catalyst to accelerate its development. Pushing the boundaries in robotics, the MBZIRC 2020 competition is poised to be a thrilling and inspiring event for Abu Dhabi.

Jade Sterling
News and Features Writer
27 June 2019