March 2022 OES Beacon

Underwater Robot Competition @ Techno-Ocean2021

Co-chairs: Masakazu Arima (Osaka Prefecture University) and Kazuo Ishii (Kyushu Institute of Technology)

  1. Introduction

The Underwater Robot Competition was held at Kobe Port Island Sports Center on Saturday, December 11, 2021 as a concurrent event of Techno-Ocean2021, an international exhibition and conference on marine-related science and technology. The Competition categories were the ‘AUV Division,’ ‘Free-style Division,’ ‘Junior Division,’ ‘Dream Underwater Robot Illustration Contest Division’ and ‘Marine Avatar Division.’ Due to COVID-19 restrictions, only the AUV Division was held on site while the other Divisions were held online. In particular, the Marine Avatar Division was held at the Fukushima Robot Test Field and relayed to the Underwater Robot Competition in Kobe, the Ukedo fishing port in Fukushima, and Shimabara fishing port in Nagasaki. It was a successful event with 116 participants on site and 168 registered online viewers. This report provides an overview of the Competition including the rules, evaluation criteria, and results.

  1. AUV Division
Fig. 1. Competition course in the swimming pool.

Scoring for the autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) with a weight of 50 kg or less is based on the following 3 criteria:

(1) Introductory video

(2) Competition on site

(3) Operational & technical capabilities

The total score is 1000 points for the introductory video (300 points), competition on site (500 points), and operational & technical capabilities (200 points).

As shown in Fig. 1, the inside of the swimming pool is divided into Area0, Area1 and Area2. Starting from Area0, four round trips should be made between Area2. Area1 has a yellow buoy and Area2 has a red buoy so that a round trip between these buoys is a straight course. The following are the regular missions for each Area.

Fig. 2. Normal missions.

Regular missions are a “course round trip”, “touch to buoys”, “underwater gate passage”, and “dive / surface”, as shown in Fig. 2.

Bonus points are awarded for technically advanced missions (bonus challenges) such as “positioning and approaching the underwater acoustic lighthouse” and “raising a medal marking completion of all the missions”. Teams should try to undertake these challenges. After 4 round trips, the AUV should surface in Area0 or Area1 to indicate completion of the missions. Each team representative should then declare to the referee that they have reached the goal.

A maximum of 50 operational/technical points are given for the following 4 criteria:

  1. A) Portability: Operational equipment judged to have excellent portability.
  2. B) Failure resistance: Operational equipment judged to have excellent failure resistance.
  3. C) Stability: Operational equipment judged to be excellent in stability.
  4. D) Extensibility: Operational equipment judged to be highly expandable.
Fig. 3. Items used for underwater missions.

If an AUV loses control during the competition, it can be retrieved by a diver/swimmer and restarted.

The following contents are necessary in the Introductory video. Items (a) to (c) are required and item (d) is optional.

(a) Team affiliation and team composition (self-introductions are optional)

(b) Strategies, ingenuity, and technical challenges in the Aquarium competition

(c) Appeal of the team’s AUV concept and technology

(d) Appeal of the vehicle’s operational technology (optional)

Fig. 4 Points for each mission.

Six teams competed in the AUV Division. One team’s vehicle could not be submerged and the other five AUVs competed in the qualifying tournament, semi-finals and finals. Hamtaro of Osaka Prefecture University won the championship by steadily accumulating points from the qualifying round to the finals. The final results are shown on this report’s last page.

  1. Freestyle Division

The competition rules for the Freestyle Division are as follows:

Competition participants should create a video of about 5 minutes in a safe and accessible place. The judges will review each video, and individually evaluate and score the content quality, uniqueness of the underwater robot, its performance, perfection in executing freestyle maneuvers, and the quality of the handouts distributed, as described below:

(1) Video quality and ease of understanding (presentation points): 20 points

(2)  Uniqueness of design concept (artistic points): 20 points

(3)  Operational performance (technical points): 10 points

(4) Perfection in executing disclosed freestyle maneuvers (execution points): 30 points

(5)  Quality of the handouts (document points): 20 points

Fig. 5. Rescue and support scene by swimmers.

Taking each criterion into consideration, the total points are tallied to determine the ranking. For the execution of the freestyle maneuvers, high reproducibility is desired. These maneuvers (for example, diving, surfacing, turns, jumps, etc.) should be clearly described in the handouts. Based on the judges’ evaluations, the team showing the best robot performance was awarded the Freestyle Division Prize. Rankings of the five participating teams are shown at the end of this article.

  1. Junior Division

The first screening is based on the posters submitted by the applicants, which addressed the following issues:

  1. Why is marine debris a problem and what kind of problems does it cause? Are these investigated and explained in an easy-to-understand manner? [10 points]
  2. Are the difficulties in the collection and disposal of marine debris investigated and clearly described? [10 points]
  3. Are the efforts to address marine debris investigated and clearly described? [10 points]
  4. Is the way in which the team would tackle the problem of marine debris using robots clearly explained? [10 points]
  5. Are the sources for each team’s information clearly specified? [10 points]

These 5 criteria were evaluated for a total of 50 points.

Fig. 6. Champion vehicle ‘Hamtaro’ of the AUV Division.

A robot creation kit and vinyl pool were distributed to the teams that passed the first screening. The robot should be developed based on the information provided in the distributed robot kit. In addition, an online pre-training session was held in late October. In this workshop, how to program a microcomputer and use the robot kit were explained.

When the robot is completed, a vinyl pool distributed by the Organizing Committee should be set up in a free space at school and the robot operated to collect the floating objects that simulate marine debris, also provided by the Committee. A picture of the landscape and a PR video of about 3 minutes with the following information should also be submitted:

  • Video showing the idea behind the robot (about 2 min)
  • Uncut video showing how the robot collects debris. (1 min)
  • Finally, the number of pieces of debris collected in one minute should be displayed using captions.

Fourteen teams participated in the Junior Division, and after rigorous evaluation, a certificate of commendation was given to the teams showing excellent presentation and robot performance.

  1. Dream Underwater Robot Illustration Division
Fig. 7. Group photo of AUV Division participants and their AUVs at the Kobe Port Island Sports Center.

Elementary and junior high school students were invited to submit illustrations to the Organizing Committee, as an e-mail attachment, on the following theme:

Theme:    As a maritime nation, what kind of robots would be active in places related to water in Japan such as the sea, rivers, lakes, and dams?

Ideas for robots that would work underwater in the future as well as drawings of imaginary underwater robots were also solicited. Not only drawings, but manga, illustrations, prints or concept designs were also accepted.

There were 13 applications from all over the country, and after vigorous review, a certificate of commendation and a supplementary prize were given to the most excellent and imaginative works.

  1. Conclusions

Since 2006, underwater robot competitions have been held once or twice a year in Japan. The OCEANS’18 MTS/IEEE Underwater Robot Competition was held at Kobe/Techno-Ocean 2018 (OTO’18), and it was memorable that many original underwater robots were gathered from both Japan and abroad. However, due to COVID-19 restrictions, Techno-Ocean was postponed for a year, and for the

Fig. 8. Grand Prix of Dream Underwater Robot Illustration Contest (Lower grade group: “Robots that find and dig undersea resources”)

Techno-Ocean2021, we had no choice but to forgo participation from overseas. The competition and judging were held online except for the AUV Division, which was carried out smoothly on site without any major trouble. Previously, there were some underwater robots that could not demonstrate their abilities on site, however, by viewing the videos sent in advance that maximized the characteristics of the robots, we could make a fair evaluation. For future meetings, we would like to continue to improve the content while retaining the benefits of holding hybrid conferences.

We strongly hope that our usual international research collaborations and exchanges can be resumed as soon as possible so that we can once again welcome participants from overseas. Next time, we look forward to your participation.

Competition Results:

·  AUV Division (Vehicle Name / Team Name / Affiliation)

Champion              Hamtaro / OPU / Osaka Prefecture University

2nd Prize                 orca-olympia / KPC-AUV / Kyushu Polytechnic College

3rd Prize              Kurione / Aqua Lab. / Tokyo Institute of Technology

3rd Prize                 KURO / Sato Lab / Nagasaki Institute of Applied Science


·  Free-style Division (Vehicle Name / Team Name / Affiliation)

Champion              J.E.N.O.S. / Team-J.E.R.O.S. / Hiroshima Institute of Technology & Nishinippon Institute of Technology

2nd Prize             M.I.R.O.C.A./ Team-M.I.R.O.C.A. / Hiroshima Institute of Technology & Nishinippon Institute of Technology

Special Award    Seto Inland Sea / Industrial Technology Club / Okayama Shoka University High School


·  Junior Division (Team Name / Affiliation)

Champion                                         Clean the sea with an underwater robot Team / Fukuoka Jyoto High School

2nd Prize                                           Underwater Suikou-san / Minamata High School

3rd Prize                                        YSYO / Fukuoka Jyoto High School

Best Poster Award                           MTT / Fukuoka Jyoto High School

Best Presentation Award                 Ryugei (Dragon Whale) / Fukuoka Jyoto High School

Best Score Award                            Clean the sea with an underwater robot Team / Fukuoka Jyoto High School

Best Score Award                         NiAScience / High School attached to Nagasaki Institute of Applied Science

Best Idea Award                           Swimmy / Fukuoka Jyoto High School

Judges’ Special Award                Keiai marine / Keiai Junior Highschool


·  Dream Underwater Robot Illustration Contest Division (Title / Name (Age) / School Name)

<Lower grades: 1st and 2nd grades of elementary school>

Grand Prix                        Robots that find and dig undersea resources / Takeda Aoi (6) / Koito Elementary School

Prize for Excellence    A fish robot that eats marine debris and lays eggs / Tamaki Maya (6) / Hisamoto Elementary School

Prize for Excellence    Sea cleaning robot / Takasaki Mai (6) / Kikugaoka Elementary School

Recognition Award         Fish shelter robot / Okuhira Risa (7) / Higashi Elementary School

Recognition Award         Robot that collects garbage / Yamaguchi Hukuhito (6) / Hibikino Elementary School

Best Idea Award               Underwater Robot / Iwasaki Rui (7) / Yobaru Elementary School


<Middle grades: 3rd and 4th grades of elementary school>

Grand Prix                        Gold, Silver, Cobalt Jewel Picking Robot / Terauchi Masanari (9) / Moritsune Elementary School

Prize for Excellence    Fish amusement park / Wakabayashi Sakurako (8) / Nishi-Kasai Elementary School

Prize for Excellence    Octopus robot / Matsuo Rio (8) / Isegaoka Elementary School

Recognition Award         Undersea garbage disposal robot / Okuhira Sana (9) / Higashi Elementary School

Recognition Award         Pakomo: A robot that carries luggage underwater / Akahori Tsukasa (8) / Kitayama Elementary School

Recognition Award         Whale diving robot / Kamei Souma (9) / Kanda Elementary School


<Upper grades: 5th and 6th grades of elementary school>

Prize for Excellence    Shark robot / Oba Moe (10) / Kanda Elementary School