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Two KU Teams win 1st and 2nd at Dubai World Challenge for Self-Driving Transport

November 9, 2021

Two teams from Khalifa University took first and second place for their innovative ground vehicle and drone at the 2nd Dubai World Challenge for Self-Driving Transport. The competition was held by Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) under the theme ‘Self-Driving Logistics’ and offered prizes over AED6 million.


His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President, Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Airline and Group, honored the winners during a ceremony held at the Dubai World Trade Centre on Wednesday, 27 October 2021, in the presence of His Excellency Mattar Mohammed Al Tayer, Director-General, Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of the Roads and Transport Authority.


The challenge is devoted to Self-driving Logistical Services, including ground transport and drones. Over six weeks, the qualified projects and initiatives were subjected to various tests at a testing site in the Dubai Silicon Oasis. 


Thirty-one academic institutions and international companies competed in the challenge, with seven teams making it to the finals in the Academia category. 


Khalifa University won first place in the Academia category in the Ground Vehicles Challenge, winning US$100,000 for their robot with a unique mechanical design that makes it effective in rugged conditions and terrain. The robot features a driving program focused on risk management strategies, touchless package delivery, and the successful clearing of tests and obstacles.



The KU Ground Vehicle team was led by Dr. Majid Khonji, Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Science, and included the following team members:


  • Eyad Shaklab, Research Assistant
  • Arjun Sharma, Research Associate
  • Rashid Alyassi, Research Engineer
  • Dr. Areg Karapetyan, Postdoctoral Fellow
  • Mustofa Basri, MSc student
  • Mohamed Nagy, MSc student
  • Murad Mebrahtu, MSc student
  • Mohamed Al Zarooni, 2020 Al Nokhba member


While in the Aerial Vehicles Challenge, Khalifa University finished second and won US$50,000 for a modified drone fitted with a dedicated cargo compartment. The highly reliable drone proved it can quickly deliver supplies in urban areas.



The KU Aerial Vehicle team was led by Dr. Hamad Karki, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, and included the following team members:


  • Vishnu Badhran, Research Associate
  • Vidya Sudevan, PhD student 
  • Hamdan Al Dhanhani, 2021 Al Nokhba member
  • Khaled Al Kaabi, 2021 Al Nokhba member
  • Abdullah Al Sherif, 2020 Al Nokhba member
  • Abdullah Al Ataishi, 2020 Al Nokhba member
  • Abdullah Al Hosani, 2020 Al Nokhba member


Dr. Fahad Al Maskari, Assistant Professor of Aerospace Engineering and coordinator of the Al Nokhba Program – a KU program that trains National Service Associates from the UAE in the research and development of autonomous vehicle technologies – supported both winning teams in an advisory role.


Teams were evaluated based on three key elements: Safety, which included reliability, visibility handling, interaction with pedestrians, and speed control; usability, which included speed, ease of use, cargo safety and understandable behavior; and the level of maturity, which included passing the scenario and operator interaction, path planning, detection and prediction. 


The challenge was part of the Dubai World Congress for Self-Driving Transport, which aims to highlight the leading role Dubai is playing in self-driving transport and to accelerate efforts to achieve the targets of Dubai Autonomous Transportation Strategy by attracting experts and technologies of self-driving transport to the UAE.


Erica Solomon
Senior Publication Specialist
9 November 2021