Competition Rules

Challeneg Rules-15

MAChallenge Rules and Regulations 2021


Challenge Focus:      POLLUTION CLEANUP

1.  Objective

Maritime Autonomous Systems (MAS) are of increasing importance to a wide range of sectors, including marine science, offshore resource exploitation, maritime transport and defence and maritime security operations.  The UK is a technology leader in this area and the Maritime Autonomous Systems Group (MASG) Council of the Society of Maritime Industries (SMI) aims to enhance this reputation and encourage development and take-up of MAS technologies in the UK.  The MASG Council sets the policy and guides the activities for this market area, utilising the extensive expertise of its council members.

A key part of the MASG Council’s mission is to encourage young technologists to help them develop careers that contribute to the future of the UK’s MAS industry.

MAChallenge is aiming to highlight the opportunities in the maritime autonomous systems industry and provide a focus for the future innovators that will drive the industry to the next level.  MAChallenge is focussed on the autonomy of the platform (irrespective of whether it is an underwater or surface vehicle), not the platform itself, with an emphasis on the potential for remote, autonomous pollution clean-up operations.


The objectives of MAChallenge are:

  • To stretch the knowledge of the students and promote creative thinking;
  • Encourage team working through a variety of individual skills; and
  • Connect the brightest young talent coming through the UK’s universities with the UK’s MAS Industry.


MAChallenge will be achieved by providing a focused challenge, an apparatus, and a venue where future innovators will come together to build, share, and distribute knowledge, and collaboratively expand the envelope of current capabilities.

The focus of the 2021 competition is the identification and removal of a range of pollutants from the ocean environment.

The competition is a team event.  Teams are to be five strong and must be affiliated to a UK university.  Please see section 4 for full information.


2.  Competition Point of Contact

Full details regarding the competition are available on the SMI website.  You can also email the dedicated address and the email will be directed to the relevant member of Council, who will endeavour to respond within two working days.  However, please check the FAQs on the website before contacting us!

Our postal address is: Society of Maritime Industries, 28-29 Threadneedle Street, London EC2R 8AY.


3.  Competition Outline

MAChallenge 2021 is focused on the identification and removal of a range of pollutants from the ocean environment.  Using a surface vessel provided by SMI, teams will develop its autonomous capabilities to achieve the challenges given later in this document.

The challenge is a two-stage process:

Stage 1: Team Video Submission

Stage 2: Remote competition

The announcement of the Stage 2 finalists will be made on 14 May 2021.

Those teams successfully selected for Stage 2 will be invited to participate in an industry engagement webinar/event in Sep 2021, followed by a remote on-water finals challenge at Timsbury Lake near Romsey in mid Nov 2021.  The current assumption is that SMI staff/members will be at Timsbury to operate/oversee the running of the vessel with the student teams each having a separate day to remotely set up and run the vessel against the challenges posed.  This assumption will be regularly reviewed as Covid related working restrictions are adjusted and teams kept informed accordingly.

Each team will be allocated at least one industrial mentor to help guide their development. The mentors will be representatives of the SMI MASG Council with technical expertise and will ensure all teams participate in the spirit of fair competition.

A prize of £2,000 will be given to the winning team and a consolation award to the remaining finalists.

Key Dates are:

9 April 2021 - Deadline for Expressions of Interest.

30 April 2021 - Final date for video submissions

14 May 2021 - Announcement of finalists

15 September 2021 - Industry engagement webinar/event

22 – 26 November 2021 - On-water finals at Timsbury Lake

Remote competition hosted by Solent University Ship Handling Centre, Romsey, Hampshire, UK.

For full details and updates including FAQs, please see the SMI website.


4.  Eligibility of Team Members:

Each team will consist of five people, with four team members being full time undergraduate students registered at a recognised UK university.

The student members of the team are expected to make significant contributions to the engineering development cycle of their solution to the challenge.  Faculty staff may be used as advisors but cannot be team members.

For teams who are successfully invited to the challenge weekend, in the event that attendance at Timsbury Lake is allowed, each team should note that a minimum number of three on-site team members are needed for MAChallenge.

Each team must designate a student team member as their team leader.  The team leader is the only person allowed to speak for the team, to request vehicle deployment, run start, run end, or vehicle retrieval. All instructions and communications with the MAChallenge organisers will be in English.


5.  Registration Information:

If you are interested in participating in MAChallenge, please register your interest by emailing soon as possible. Please include:

  • Team name
  • Team members
  • Primary contact details with email and telephone number
  • Host university and contact

You will also find a copy of these competition rules, including details of team eligibility here. You may also find our FAQs helpful.


6.  Stage 1 - Team Video Submission:

Specific requirements for the video submission can be found on the SMI website.

To be considered for selection to compete in the remote on-water challenges, you will need to submit a three-minute video pitch, addressing ALL the items below, which will be marked as indicated:

  • Introduce yourself and your team (10%).
  • Outline your experience in this field (20%).
  • Describe relevant projects that you have worked on (10%).
  • Explain what you think the key technical challenges will be and how you will overcome them (30%).
  • Describe the role you see for autonomous systems in dealing with the issue of ocean plastics (20%).
  • Explain what you would spend the prize money on (10%).

Videos will need to be uploaded to Dropbox ( and shared with by 12noon on the 30th April 2021. Each video should be no longer than 3 minutes in length. Beware! The judging panel will only watch 3 minutes of video from each entry.


7.  Stage 2 – On-Water Finals:


The competition will be split into five challenges all of which will be in open water. These challenges are described in detail in section 8 of these rules.

Marking will be weighted towards fully autonomous solutions versus remote operation.

Prior to being allowed to compete in the challenges, each team will be required to complete an initial systems test. Teams will be required to show:

  • The vessel is able to successfully engage the propulsion system and control course/heading by travelling up and down the test area in a straight line.

Any vessel deemed by the judges not to be controllable at this pre-assessment will not be allowed to enter their vessel in the challenges.


Each team that is successfully selected for Stage 2 will be remote access to the following:

  • Catamaran GRP hull (ca. 2m long)
  • Propulsion system built into the vehicle. This will consist of two Blue Robotics T200 thrusters and associated electronic speed controller (ESC) providing differential steering.
  • Battery for propulsion, control system, sensors etc
  • A fitted set of sensors, details TBC.

Further details are on the MAChallenge website


The following hardware will also be supplied to each team, as well as being installed in the vessel:

  • Autopilot ‘Spectre e-boat-T’ with GPS
  • Sensor payload (e.g. camera, Lidar, proximity sensor)
  • Micro-PC (spec TBC) onto which team/s software will be loaded
  • Communications links
  • Licenced ‘Ship Simulator’ package to enable development of s/w functionality

Teams will access the Remote-Control Workstation PC at Timsbury Lake via a remote desktop application e.g. TeamViewer.  This will give them remote control over the platform and their own software functionality in the Micro-PC onboard via the comms link modem.


Required Capabilities:

Teams will be required to develop their own software packages to make use of the designated sensor outputs, send control messages to the autopilot and use the Ship Simulator package to model the vessel’s response to control commands. Students will be provided with required hardware; the exact package will be confirmed to finalists.


8.  Mission Challenges:

The competition venue is the Solent University Ship Handling Centre at Timsbury Lake near Romsey. Details are available at: A navigational map is available on the same page.

Main Challenges:


All teams will need to undertake the following challenges.  Teams may use remote control or full autonomy to undertake the challenges with scoring awarded appropriately by the judging panel.The organiser reserves the right to amend the challenges in the light of operational conditions on the day.


Challenge 1: Navigate a waypoint track

Vehicles will be required to navigate around a track using a series of waypoints in order to test the manoeuvring abilities.  


Challenge 2: Collision avoidance

Teams will need to prove that their control system can take the correct action in accordance with Collision Regulations when meeting another vessel.  The other vessel will be modelled by virtual radar/ARPA data input and the team’s vessel must make any required alteration of course automatically without operator input.  For this challenge the vessel will be navigating around a set waypoint track.


Challenge 3: Berthing

The team will need to control their vessel to approach a berth and stop the vessel safely within 1m of the berth.


Challenge 4:  Searching for pollution.

The team will need to operate the vessel to search, locate and map an area of pollution within a given search area.  The ‘pollution’ will be provided by input from a virtual sensor.


Challenge 5:  Searching for surface ‘targets’.

The team will need to operate the vessel to search a specified box and position all floating targets within it.


Provisional Scoring Scheme:

The overall scoring scheme is as follows:

Challenge 1               - 10

Challenge 2              - 20

Challenge 3              - 15

Challenge 4              - 30

Challenge 5              - 15

Team Presentation  - 10


Thus, there will be a maximum of 100 points available; however, teams that do not complete a challenge autonomously will have their points reduced by 50% for that challenge. There will also be penalties for collisions with buoys and/or other teams.



Judges have the right to adapt the scoring criteria over the duration of Stage 2 and their decisions are final.

With thanks to our industry sponsors:




If you have any questions regarding the rules, please email Alternatively, please check our FAQs Page in case your question has already been answered.