Singapore AUV Challenge 2022 – A treat for robotics lovers, a learning experience for students

EarthzineAutonomous Underwater Vehicles, Ocean Decade, SAUVC, Student Competitions

The 8th edition of SAUVC was the largest in terms of team registration, and was also endorsed by the UN Decade of Ocean Sciences.

18 Oct, 2022

Singapore AUV Challenge committee

The 8th edition of SAUVC was organized from 23-26 September 2022 in the Singapore Polytechnic. Following in line with its consistent growth in previous editions, this edition was the largest ever in terms of team registration and second largest in terms of participation. This year saw 72 teams registering interest for the event, of which 49 teams participated by submitting videos of their AUVs as part of pre-qualification requirements. Of these, 25 teams made it into the event, which is lower than that in 2019. Some teams could not make it due to non-receipt of a travel-visa on time. Similar to the previous editions, we also had a student technical workshop on autonomous vehicles and sensing, and in addition, this time we also conducted an IEEE OES Distinguished lecture.

A highlight for this year was the endorsement from the UN Decade of Ocean sciences for the event. This underlined the importance and alignment of the event with the goals of this grand global movement, especially to 5 of its 10 challenges, and imprints IEEE OES’s important role in the Decade as well. Another unique feature of this edition was that it followed the AUV Symposium held earlier in the week. The idea was that teams from SAUVC could benefit from participation in the symposium, and interactions with some of the marine robotics experts who would stay back for the SAUVC event. This idea worked out well, and we had 2 student teams presenting papers in the AUV symposium, as well as several AUV symposium attendees staying on to witness the challenge and interact with the teams.

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Participating Teams

The 72 teams that registered for the event had to prequalify for participation. The teams were required to submit a video of their AUV swimming underwater for at least 10 seconds and demonstrate the usage of their AUV’s kill switch as part of the safety feature of their AUVs.  Based on these criteria, 42 teams were selected to compete in the event. Of these, 25 teams made it to Singapore for the challenge. Student teams from more countries were expected to join as well, but many of the teams faced visa issues or funding issues which stopped them from traveling to the event (notably, 9 teams from Bangladesh, Turkey and Poland). Nevertheless, despite the travel, visa and funding issues faced in the post-covid era, it is impressive that so many teams made it and were able to participate. In total there were around 180 student participants at the event from 8 countries (India, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey, Russia, Taiwan, Hong Kong). The representation of teams from all across Asia, particularly from South Asia & South East Asia was phenomenal and shows the value that SAUVC brings to this region. There were many first-timers and some regulars in the participating teams. This was the first time we saw participation of teams from Turkey, and one of them was from a high-school, which made their presence even more impressive. We also saw visits from alumni of previous teams (notably, the team from China which won in previous editions of the competition).

Teams setting up in the Singapore Polytechnic hall and interacting with the organizers

Teams interacting with visitors (John Potter from NTNU)

The Challenge

SAUVC 2022 was similar in tasks to the previous edition, in that it consisted of two tiers – qualification round and final round. To qualify, the AUV had to swim from the qualification starting line and pass through the qualification gate without surfacing, touching the bottom/wall or the qualification gate. The top 16 qualified teams, with the fastest time for the qualifying round, were allowed to advance to the final round. In the final round, the AUV would accumulate points by completing a series of tasks aimed at testing its acoustic and visual navigation capabilities, positioning, actuation and robotic manipulation. The table below provides the different functional capabilities of the AUV being tested and the related tasks.

1. Passing through a gate, avoiding red flare: Navigation, Obstacle avoidance

2. Locating a particular bucket amongst 4 options, and dropping a ball into it: Target acquisition and manipulation

3. Moving out of the bucket arena, returning and reacquiring the ball dropped: Target reacquisition and manipulation

4. Bumping against a flare holding a ball to drop it (one with acoustic pinger, one without): Acoustic/Visual Localisation

5. Resurfacing at the end of the run: Controls

AUVs in action underwater

Judges of the Best innovative engineering award, beside the OES membership poster

The introduction of the red flare in the first task, and the introduction of a decoy flare without an acoustic pinger in task number 4, were new additions in this year. This was to make sure the tasks were more challenging this year, thus progressively upgrading the challenge. Each task carried a certain number of points, depending on the challenge and the difficulty involved in performing it. There was also a timing bonus, and a bonus associated with weight and dimensions of the AUVs. Apart from this, the tasks were made more challenging through  randomization of the position of the buckets, flare and gate and its orientation. A complete description of the tasks, static judging criteria and award of points are covered in the competition rule book.

Teams deploying their AUVs at the competition

SAUVC 2022 Award Winners

First prize winner from Istanbul Technical University, Turkey

This year, the competition was wide open because the consistent champions from the last few editions, namely the team from Northwestern Polytechnical university (China) and Far Eastern Federal university (Russia) did not make it to the event, possibly due to Covid or visa-related issues. Instead, this time the winner was a debutant at SAUVC, namely the team from Turkey. The first runner-ups were the team from Bauman state Moscow technical university who were prize winners in 2019 as well, and the second runner-ups saw 2 teams from India and Indonesia (who have not won in previous editions). The top 4 teams in the finals were as follows:

  1. ITU AUV from Istanbul Technical University, Turkey
  2. Team Hydronautics from Bauman Moscow State Technical University, Russia
  3. BIT-AUV from Bannari Amman Institute of Technology, India and Tech_SAS from Telkom University, Indonesia.

In addition to the top 4 finalists, we also awarded the IEEE OES “most innovative engineering” award, which was constituted in 2019. This was judged by a technical panel consisting of 5 members. Innovation was defined as anything that is new/different and intentionally implemented for a specific stated purpose in SAUVC, with practically shown application.  Based on the above criteria, the team from Bauman Moscow State Technical University, Russia was awarded the OES “most innovative engineering” award.

Gala Dinner & Award Ceremony

Some moments of joyous celebrations

The event ended with a gala dinner on 26th where the prizes were announced. This event gives the teams a chance to have their fist-pumping moment and celebrate, as well as have a relaxed networking session where they can interact with each other, as well as the organizers who are also from the underwater engineering community themselves (spanning academia, industry and defense sectors). The ceremony was held at the School of Design and Engineering, National University of Singapore. The spirited and exciting evening included a presentation of the participation certificates, as well as announcement of the winners. Some joyous moments and celebrations ensued, followed by long discussions that went well into the night.

Event publicity and social outreach

As in previous events, the event has been well covered on social media. The event was also publicized via the ECOP programme's social media portal (eg. here and here) , and flyers of the ECOP programme and OES Earthzine were distributed at the event. The event will be reported in the ECOP programme's newsletter as well, and in this sense, we established a synergy between our event and the ECOP programme.

Specifically, our Twitter handle  saw 81 tweets that made 11811 impressions over Jan to September. There were 6563 impressions in September alone, and 12800 profile visits. Instagram saw 5470 accounts reached in September alone, and 975 accounts who engaged with our profile. Facebook saw 7300 impressions in September alone, with 5200 engagements. The posts reached followers mainly from South Asia (Bangladesh, Pakistan and India), Singapore, Thailand and Hong Kong. This year, we decided not to award the “Most viewed photo social media” prize in order to focus our efforts towards technical achievements, and given that our social media handles already had good visibility.

Summary of social media statistics for the event

Student AUV workshop

Following SAUVC 2022, a student workshop on autonomous vehicles and sensing technologies was organized on 26th March at the Singapore Polytechnic. The objective  of the workshop was to complement the hands-on learning the students obtained during the competition, with talks and hands-on workshops on technologies related to marine robotics. Mentoring from expert student teams, and networking were the other objectives. This also goes hand-in-hand with outcomes #6 and #7, and challenges #9 and #10 of the UN Decade of Ocean Sciences, which has endorsed the SAUVC and the student workshop.

The chair of SAUVC 2022, Rajat Mishra, gave the welcome address followed by an introduction on IEEE OES membership by the OES Singapore Chapter chair. The workshop had 3 sessions covering 3 different aspects of marine vehicles, a precursor to introducing new tasks for future competitions and equip the participants with relevant knowledge:

  1. Improving on the vehicle’s capabilities by learning from successful teams on their approach towards robotics tasks such as vision, navigation and sensing
  2. Taking the robot’s capability to the next level by introducing underwater communication into the picture
  3. Learning on large-scale monitoring applications using a larger-scale counterpart of autonomous robots - sailboats

Towards this, we had

    Mr. Manu Ignatius delivering the workshop on underwater communication

  1. A hands-on workshop on underwater communication, an important task that goes with marine robotics. The workshop was delivered by Manu Ignatius, CEO of Subnero, supported by Chinmay Pendharkar (Subnero). Teams were taught how to use basic tools and equipment for this, including via acoustics, optical methods and RF, using DIY sensor setups, cheap electronic equipment, and freely available software stacks such as UnetStack. Teams were shown an example of how they could use their laptop soundcard to transmit coded acoustic messages to other counterparts. The workshop was clearly very engaging, because pretty soon students were all sending acoustic messages to each other across the hall using these tools. The video of this workshop is available below.

    IEEE OES Distinguished Lecture by Dr. John Potter from NTNU

  1. A sharing-session by Bumblebee, a previous SAUVC team that has been successful in other competitions, to guide existing teams on what they could do. Bumblebee shared information on their lessons learnt on sensing, navigation, and control, and also shared specifics of the approaches they used on their current version of the vehicle. After the talk, workshop attendees interacted with Bumblebee while they described their vehicle which was on display at the workshop, learning about its key features. A video of this talk is available at
  1. Talk on the use of sailboats as a research monitoring platform: Dr. John Potter (designation) from NTNU, delivered an IEEE OES Distinguished Lecture talk on how sailboats can be used as research monitoring platforms, filling in a niche gap between autonomous robots and expensive large research vessels. The talk also saw good engagement from the audience. A video of this talk is available below.

The workshop was attended by 130 students and 20 non-students. Following the talks, there was a networking lunch session.

A networking lunch session

It is also noteworthy that this year, SAUVC students benefited from the presence of experts from the marine robotics community who stayed on after the AUV Symposium. SAUVC student teams were also present at the AUV Symposium, presenting papers on how they designed their AUVs, and the various lessons they learnt from it. In this sense, we delivered a good synergy between the 3 events (AUV Symposium, Singapore AUV challenge, and the student workshop), benefiting the student community with a well-rounded learning experience.


Address by SAUVC Chair

IEEE OES has always been a regular supporter of SAUVC in terms of sponsorship. Apart from OES, SAUVC 2022 was sponsored by Mathworks, Kongsberg, Evologics, BlueRobotics, SubCTech, Nortek, IEEE Young Professionals, and Office of Naval Research Global (ONRG). Some of these sponsors had supported us towards the 2020 event which did not materialize, and thus the sponsorship funds were carried over to the 2022 event. SAUVC is run solely on sponsorship, and we would like to sincerely thank all our sponsors for their support. Additionally, this year, Kongsberg helped us out with 5 of their representatives attending the event and helping with judging during the qualifiers. Representatives from Kongsberg and ONRG also interacted with the teams.

One of the student teams at SAUVC presenting at the symposium

Concluding Remarks

SAUVC has been successfully organized for 8 consecutive editions now over 10 years. It is possibly the largest and most well represented autonomous underwater vehicle competition for students in Asia and Europe, and this year, the branding has taken one step forward with the endorsement from the Ocean Decade. Being an event that does not charge a blanket registration fee for teams to participate, it is impressive how much participation the event still garnered despite the post-Covid restrictions such as visa, travel and airline fees. Our no-registration policy is aimed at promoting fledgling teams to compete. IEEE OES membership drives were conducted as part of registration, as well as during the SAUVC workshop event. We believe the significant representation in terms of countries, number of students and diversity, is encouraging. We also have significant educational outreach - the teams benefit not only from the hands-on competition, but also from interactions with committee members and attending marine robotics experts who give them mentoring and advice. Furthermore, the student workshop on autonomous robotics and sensing, completes their learning cycle. This time as well, we saw teams helping each other out in achieving tasks such as acoustics, and we hope this collaborative nature and spirit of the challenge continues in future editions.

Video highlights of the first 3 days of the event:

Day 1 (registration and setup)

Day 2 (qualifiers)

Day 3 (finals)