From MBZIRC 2017 (Photo: DTU)

DTU invited to international robotics competition

Monday 17 Feb 20


Nils Axel Andersen
Associate Professor
DTU Electrical Engineering
+45 45 25 35 83


Ole Ravn
Professor, Head of Group, Study Line Coordinator Automation and Robot Technology
DTU Electrical Engineering
+45 45 25 35 60
The large international MBZIRC robotics competition has invited DTU to compete against some of the world’s best technical universities from Germany, Switzerland, and Korea, among other countries.

MBZIRC—the Mohamed Bin Zayed International Robotics Challenge—is a major international robotics competition held in Abu Dhabi from 23 to 25 February 2020. DTU’s team of eight students and five researchers have just left to perform the final tests on the course before the competition is kicked off. The other competition participants come from some of the world’s other leading universities in robotics technology, including the German Universität Bonn, Swiss ETH Zurich, and KAIST from South Korea.

“The competition consists of a total of three different challenges reflecting the tasks that we would like to see robots and drones perform in the future,” says Associate Professor Nils Axel Andersen, DTU Electrical Engineering. He heads DTU’s team, which represents the only Danish university in the competition.

In one of the three competition challenges, the robot team—consisting of a self-driving robot and three flying drones—will work together to put out a fire in a high-rise building model. This is done by first locating the places in the building that are on fire and then dousing the flames with water. The robots enter the building by either driving through the door or flying in through the windows. All without any human operation.

“During the past year, we’ve been preparing for the competition, which we were fortunate enough to be invited to participate in. During our preparations, there were a few stop tests where we had to demonstrate that our robots are equipped with the right instruments and software to perform the tasks of the competition on their own,” explains student Joachim Langtved Axelsen.

DTU has been focusing intensely on the robotics and automation field

One of the stop tests reflected the requirement that both the self-driving robot and the three drones can read the surroundings themselves and thus know—for example—where doors and windows are located in the high-rise building, and that they can locate the flames and extinguish them using heat-sensitive sensors.

DTU participated in the MBZIRC competition for the first time in 2017. The University received a silver medal in one of the competition challenges in that year.

Since then, the University has been focusing intensively on the whole robotics and automation field. Among other initiatives, a new Master’s degree programme in autonomous systems has been established at DTU. In addition, the University is currently constructing a test hall for use for practical tests with drones and robots, in the air, on the ground, and in water. The test hall will become part of DTU’s new Centre for Collaborative Autonomous Systems, and is a unique facility for both students and researchers unrivalled by other universities in Europe.

Tasks reflect future use of robots

In the second challenge of the MBZIRC competition, the self-driving robot and the drones must jointly build two corner walls using large building blocks. The goal is to position the corner correctly in the marked spot and then build the walls as high as possible without them tipping over. The last competition challenge is to catch a ball that hangs down from the organizer’s drone that is flying around the course. The ball must then be dropped into a box.

The tasks of this year’s MBZIRC competition are praised by the Danish team.

“These are challenges that reflect the tasks we want robots to perform in the future. For example, high-risk firefighting or search assignments in difficult terrain. Here we will soon see robots and drones working together on their own without an operator to control and decide where action is needed,” says Nils Axel Andersen.

The Danish team aims to achieve a place in the top five at the international competition. The MBZIRC organizer describes the participants as follows:

“A total of 30 teams have qualified for the competition. They represent internationally recognized research institutions with well-established robotics laboratories. We’re looking forward to seeing their innovative solutions in robotics technology at this year’s competition,” says Dr Arif Sultan Al Hammadi, Executive Vice-President at Khalifa University of Science and Technology.