A Heriot-Watt University team triumphed over international opposition at the third edition of the Student Autonomous Underwater Competition - Europe (SAUC-E 2008), held at the Ifremer deep wave basin near Brest, France.
The team won first prize and were also presented with the Thales Special Award for innovation in decision making autonomy, bringing home €11,000. The students are studying a variety of subjects, including Robotics, Ocean Systems and Vision Image and Signal Processing.
The Heriot-Watt University team designed a hover capable Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) capable of carrying out a complex in-water mission with no direct human control. The team of students worked hard to ensure that the AUV completed all the mission goals. The work paid off as for the first time in the history of the competition the AUV, named Nessie III, completed all of the tasks which included touching a submerged buoy, dropping markers on a target on the tank floor, and surfacing in a marked zone above two tyres whilst producing a full map of the competition arena.
Each year the competing teams rely on sponsorship from industry to develop their AUVs. Nessie was sponsored by BP and SeeByte, and this support was crucial in enabling the team to produce such a successful entry.
Jonny McKane from BP said "We are really proud to have played a part in the achievement of the Nessie team. BP has been pushing the boundaries of AUV development and the SAUC-E competition is a great way to foster innovation and train young, bright engineers."
Dr Yvan Petillot, from Heriot-Watt's School of Engineering and Physical Sciences, said "Seeing the team develop and learn over the last three years has been one of the most satisfying experiences of my academic career. The achievements of this year demonstrate the high quality of our students and their ability to tackle difficult real life challenges involving multiple world leading technologies. The Ministry of Defence is planning to fund a pilot studies to push forward some of our ideas, a testament of their novelty and value. I am extremely proud of our team and very impressed by their achievements".
Dr Ioseba Tena from SeeByte said: "We'd like to extend our congratulations to the Nessie team. They have accomplished a lot over the last three years and their victory is well deserved. SeeByte is constantly looking at ways in which it might engage with and improve the underwater robotics community. It is therefore important for us to have supported this effort. We plan to continue our relationship with the Nessie team in years to come."