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Finalists announced in £1.5m ocean robotics competition

22 July 2015

The final phase of a competition to develop novel adaptive autonomous ocean sampling network management systems is now underway.

Marine Autonomous and Robotic Systems (MARS). Seen here, a Slocum Glider and Wave Glider on the shoreline (photo: NOC)

Two UK consortia will move forward to develop systems capable of coordinating a suite of marine autonomous vehicles gathering data from the ocean over periods of months, and tracking and sampling dynamic features.

The two-phase competition was launched last September by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) in partnership with the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) and Innovate UK, with £1.5 million being made available for the project.

Phase one saw nine consortia submit feasibility studies, five of which were funded. After a review of the outcomes of the phase one studies, two consortia were invited to apply for phase two for the development of prototypes, which would be capable of undertaking demonstration missions at sea. 

The two consortia moving forward to the final stage are led by SeeByte in partnership with ASV and the Marine Biological Association (MBA) and University of Exeter in partnership with Marine South East and the Met Office. Each will now spend the next 12 months developing their products, with the first test mission expected to take place in February 2016.

This is the second small business research initiative competition that the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) has overseen. Last year’s competition to develop long endurance marine unmanned surface vehicles was won by ASV of Portchester and MOST (AV) of Chichester. Both companies have had considerable success in the sector since, with sales in both the UK and export markets.

Geraint West, NOC's head of National Marine Facilities at the NOC, says the previous competition produced two excellent surface vehicles which have already allowed his organisation to explore new ways of undertaking science at sea.

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