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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 October 2018

Robots to build walls and fight fires in UAE competition

Global challenge to look at role artificial intelligence can play in modern cities

Students and staff and Khalifa University work on various robotic research projects. Delores Johnson / The National
Students and staff and Khalifa University work on various robotic research projects. Delores Johnson / The National

Can robots construct buildings, capture hostile drones or fight raging city fires?

Engineers aiming to take part in a global competition in Abu Dhabi will have to design systems capable of tackling all these scenarios.

On Monday, the Khalifa University of Science and Technology announced the second edition of the Mohamed bin Zayed International Robotics Challenge will take place in February 2020.

The competition will focus on the role of robotics and artificial intelligence in "smart city solutions" – technology which aims to improve the quality of life for citizens.

“Some areas where robots are already in use in the UAE include health care, transport, education, banking and government services," said Dr Arif Al Hammadi, executive vice president of Khalifa University.

“The country is also planning to use robots for security and emergency response to prevent sabotage and security breaches, safeguarding critical infrastructure and strategic industry installations.”

With the theme of "tackling challenges, offering solutions", competitors at MBZIRC 2020 will have to compete in three main challenges. Around Dh18 million in sponsorship programmes and prizes can be won.

Dr Lakmal Seneviratne, director of Khalifa University Centre for Autonomous Robotic Systems, said one of the challenges will look at how to capture and neutralise stray drones.

He said a second will focus on using robots to locate, transport and assemble brick-shaped objects to build predefined structures in an outdoor setting. A third will challenge teams to look at how drones can help fight fires in high-rise buildings.

"These challenges are very relevant to the UAE,” said Dr Seneviratne.

“We took many factors into consideration, such as the impact it will have on society. The teams have about two years to plan.”

Dr Seneviratne went on to say he hoped the competition would bring new inventions and innovations to the UAE.

"We intend to build a UAE team,” he said. “The entry barrier is very high so you need an established robotics lab. We want to partner with other universities.”

Universities from the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Japan have already expressed interest in participating in the event.

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Read more:

UAE symposium hears about the possibilities – and limits – of social robotics

Industrial revolution X: robotics, AI and blockchain skills for Emirati students

NYU plans to make Abu Dhabi global robotics hub

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