The First Underwater Robot Competition in Okinawa

Okinawa Prefecture has a vast ocean area and has various ocean resources, such as deep ocean water, seafloor hydrothermal deposits, wave power, and marine biotechnology. In the Okinawa 21st century vision, one of leading industries touted for the next generation is marine biotechnology. For this reason, as part of steps to activate research and education in the ocean resources field, in December 2014, the Underwater Robot Preliminary Competition in Okinawa was held. Based on the results, the first Underwater Robot Competition in Okinawa was held on November 21 and 22, 2015.

In this contest, contestants competed in three categories: in the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) category, they had to take a photograph of letters that were drawn under buoys in the water; in the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) category, the vehicles had to start by themselves, travel a certain distance while recognizing buoys, and then float to the surface; and in the Freestyle category, they competed in terms of originality, such as exhibiting creature-like movement. Universities from Okinawa, Kyushu, and Iwate and primary and secondary school students from Okinawa Prefecture attended this event, and a total of 14 teams challenged the seas of Okinawa.

On the afternoon of the 21st, a presentation was held in the Naha Cruise Terminal, and each team presented their ideas and did a question and answer session with a judge.

On the morning of the 22nd, the ROV category competition started. A joint team from Nagasaki University and Nippon Bunri University, which received first prize in the preliminary competition, started first. Even though in the first half of the event they reached buoy 1 smoothly, in the last half they slowed down and ran out of time. When they recovered the robot, they found that its propeller was tangled with fishing line. They became painfully aware of the difficulty of racing in the ocean environment. After that, other teams also fought against a lack of underwater transparency, waves, and the wind. Even though the Ryukyu University team’s robot moved strongly underwater, it could not reach buoy 1. The Iwate University team, the second to the last, reached buoy 1, but unfortunately, time ran out. Under such conditions, the Okinawa Polytechnic College team, the last team, started with the stratagem that they attack buoy 3, which had a higher score, first, and they succeeded in getting a higher score. The results of the competition in the ROV category were:

First prize: Okinawa Polytechnic College team

Merit award: The joint team from Nagasaki University and Nippon Bunri University

Fighting sprit award: Iwate University team

Next was the AUV category competition. Unfortunately, the Kyushu Polytechnic College team retired because of their robot’s bad condition, so the competition was reduced to three teams. Each team started out for a buoy, but they turned right and left and had a tough race. There was drama at the end this year too, though. With everybody watching the race expectantly, the Okinawa Polytechnic College team, which started last, passed all the buoys, arrived at the goal and kept going, made a U-turn, and floated to the surface. It performed a special flourish. The results of the competition in the AUV category were:

First prize: Okinawa Polytechnic College team

Merit award: Nobody qualified

In the end, the Okinawa Polytechnic College team took first prize in both the ROV category and the AUV category and showed their strength. The Oosato Junior High School team and the Junior Tech Club (JTC) Tamagusuku received a special award.

We commend everybody who participated in this competition and challenged the sea in Okinawa for putting up a good fight. Furthermore, we would like to thank the members of the executive committee and supporting companies who gave their support and cooperation from the bottom of our hearts.

Opening ceremony・a participant’s oath


ROV operation

Adjusting robots

Participants and judges