Drones of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering will be presented in Abu Dhabi in a week

The Khalifa University hosts the Mohamed Bin Zayed International Robotics Challenge (MBZIRC) in Abu Dhabi from 23-25 February. A team led by scientists from the Faculty of Electrical Engineering of the Czech Technical University in Prague (FEL) working with researchers from the universities of Pennsylvania and New York has made it to the finals and to defend the 2017 victory, has been testing drones in desert conditions for more than a month.


Desert storms, other optical conditions and ubiquitous sand. Those are the obstacles the experts from the Faculty of Electrical Engineering of the Czech Technical University want to overcome before the start of the prestigious competition. That is why they have been preparing for more than a month in the United Arab Emirates, where the competition will take place.

The course of preparations was approached by the head of the group of multirobotic systems Dr. Martin Saska: "During the implementation of individual tasks, their intricacy and complexity proved to be almost unachievable. If we competed in 2017 in two disciplines, autonomous collection of objects by drones, now we have to solve separate tasks eight, maybe even nine. In the first discipline, the drone team has the task of destroying the inflated balloons and at the same time removing a small balloon in flight from the organizing drone that is flying at 8m / s. In the second discipline, the drone team has the task of building a wall, but at the same time the ground robot has to build another wall, which requires a completely different robotic approach. In addition, some large bricks need to be carried co-operatively by multiple drones at once, which again requires different control and coordination mechanisms. In the third discipline there are four such complex robotic tasks. The drone team has the task of autonomously locating fire on the building's façade and extinguishing it with the help of a mounted fire extinguisher. A completely different task is the parallel deployment of fire fighting drones inside individual rooms, where drones without GPS must completely avoid obstacles, fly through narrow windows and even in smoke. In addition, some of the fires need to be extinguished by a ground robot with other sensors and an extinguishing mechanism. And to make matters worse, there will also be large ground fires in the arena that need to be extinguished with a special fire blanket carried by drones. However, it is the complexity of the tasks that forces us to build one of the most complex robotic drone systems, which has been deployed not only in the Czech Republic. Right now, I am sitting at the foot of the vast sand dune where we test the system, and it is a wonderful feeling to watch so many flying robots around me, but most of all the enthusiastic young people who give life to the system. I believe that the developed technology and gained invaluable experience will serve retroactively also Czech companies who are considering the deployment of autonomous drones in their business as it did after the last year of the competition." Martin Saska concluded his reflections on the practical usability of individual systems developed for MBZIRC competition by CTU students and scientists.

Prof. Petr Páta, the Dean of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, also expressed support to the team. He  commented on taking part in the competition: "I am glad that our colleagues managed to make it through to the finals of these races and that we as a faculty were able to support the team as much as possible. Of course I would like us to win, but even participating in the competition alone is a great result for us."

Dr. Arif Sultan Al Hammadi, Executive Vice President of Khalifa University, commented on this year's competition: "Building on the success of the inaugural edition of MBZIRC 2017, the second edition will bring a total of 30 teams to the UAE to display their advanced innovations in some key robotics technologies. These finalists represent top internationally-renowned academic and research institutions with well-established robotics labs and we believe MBZIRC 2020 will showcase the creative best in robotics and stand testimony to its reputation as a leading global competition."



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