Galway to host World Robotic Sailing Championship

For the first time Galway city is to host the seventh World Robotic Sailing Championships (WRSC2014 ) next week. The event will see fully autonomous and unmanned sailing boats, up to 2.5m in length, compete in a series of short distance racing, navigation, and autonomy challenges, taking place around the port of Galway.

This year teams from Galway, Wales, US, Finland, France, Portugal, and Russia will participate in the event, which takes place between September 9 to 13. Organised in conjunction with the WRSC, the International Robotic Sailing Conference (IRSC ) will take place on Monday, September 8, in the Aula Maxima, NUI Galway. The conference provides a platform to discuss the broad range of scientific problems involved in the design and development of autonomous sailboats.

NUI Galway engineering lecturer and event co-chair, Dr Fearghal Morgan, said: “The International Robotic Sailing Conference provides international researchers with the opportunity to present and exchange ideas on their work on a wide range of topics related to autonomous surface marine robotics, particularly robotic sailing. Previous IRSC/WRSC events have been hosted in France, Wales, Germany, Canada, Portugal and Austria. We invite participation from anyone who might be interested in this work.”

Robotic sailing offers the potential of long range and long term autonomous wind propelled, solar or wave-powered carbon neutral devices. Robotic sailing devices could potentially contribute to monitoring of environmental, ecological, meteorological, hydrographic and oceanographic data. These devices can also be used in traffic monitoring, security, assistance and rescue.

The challenges which competitors in the WRSC face will include tasks such as station, speed in different conditions, accuracy, obstacle avoidance, target tracking, endurance and cooperation, all of which are performed autonomously. The competition, originally designed for sailboats, also includes a motorboats category in order to bring together the scientific communities that work on different types of autonomous marine vehicles. A bottle boat competition will also be held with several Irish entries competing.

Event co-chair Dermot Tynan of Hewlett Packard, Galway, explains: “The dependency on changing winds and sea conditions presents a considerable challenge for short and long term route and stability planning, collision avoidance and boat control. Building a robust and seaworthy autonomous sailing robot presents a truly complex and multi-disciplinary challenge for boat designers, naval architects, electronic and embedded systems engineers and computer scientists. Since 2004, events such as Sailbot, Microtransat Challenge, World Robotic Sailing Championship and the International Robotic Sailing Conference have sparked an explosion in the number of groups working on autonomous sailing robots. To date, the longest distance sailed autonomously is almost 400km. Many of the challenges in building truly autonomous sailing robots still remain unsolved.”

Information on each WRSC team entry and schedule is available at http://wrsc2014.com/teams. Details of the conference programme and delegate registration can be found at http://wrsc2014.com/conference/.

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