The world’s first student-arranged student competition in autonomous ships

Seven student teams from six countries and three continents participated. The competition was organized in the Norwegian university city Trondheim and will be held every year from now on.

Phpto of autonomous boats in the water.
The challenges that the teams must solve give the participants practical experience with various methods used for maritime autonomy.Photo: Morten Breivik / NTNU

The student teams competed with self-built autonomous ships that they had transported from USA, India, Turkey, Portugal, Scotland and Norway.

It was the Turkish team that finally won, after three intense days of competition where the ships had to maneuver through obstacle courses, to automatically dock at a pre-defined location and to avoid colliding with objects that appeared in the waters. Efficiency and safety were among the competition criteria.

The challenges that the teams must solve have been developed together with the world-leading maritime autonomy cluster in Norway, and give the participants practical experience with various methods used for maritime autonomy.

“This is a unique international competition organized by and for students, which shows the creative power and creativity that resides in young people,” says Morten Breivik, associate professor at the Department of Engineering Cybernetics at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), who is also a mentor for the students and one of the initiators of the competition.

Photo of students preparing their boats before the competition .
Students preparing their boats before the competition. Foto: Idun Haugan / NTNU

Arranged by students

Njord – The Autonomous Ship Challenge is organized and arranged by the student organization Njord at NTNU. The organization’s students come from a variety of fields, including marine technology and engineering cybernetics.

“The competition is a great platform for combining practice and theoretical knowledge, says the leader of Njord, Frithjof Bugge.

Since last autumn, the students have planned and organized the competition alongside their studies and work.

“Finding time and resources has been challenging, but now we are very satisfied that everything fell into place,” says Fredrik Flesland Selheim in Njord.

After this year’s successful accomplishment, Njord has gained a lot of organizational experience to use for next year’s competition in 2024.

In addition to the competition itself, Njord had organized social gatherings among the competing teams where the students can exchange experiences and discuss among each other.

The competition creates an international arena for students to explore new ideas and concepts related to autonomous ships. The teams face realistic maritime challenges that give them unique experience with teamwork, prototyping, problem solving and innovation.

Photo of the jury keeping a close eye on the boats maneuvering through the obstacle course.
The jury keeps a close eye on the boats through the obstacle course. Photo: Morten Breivik / NTNU

International student arena for innovation

NTNU has a strong professional community within research and education within autonomous vehicles. The university also works closely with the maritime industry in Norway. The harbor area Nyhavna, where the competition takes place, is in the middle of a maritime industry cluster where NTNU also has its own premises and laboratories.

“The competition aims to inspire innovation and smart solutions within maritime autonomy, as well as create a platform for personal development and networking,” says Jan Onarheim, project manager at NTNU’s Department of Marine Technology, who is also a mentor for the students and one of the initiators behind the competition.

Photo of many people gathered around a table.
From the social gathering last night where the leader of Njord, Frithjof Bugge gives a speach. Photo: Morten Breivik / NTNU

The competition is sponsored by prominent companies in the Norwegian maritime industry, such as Maritime Robotics, Kongsberg Discovery, the Norwegian Maritime Directorate, ABB, Marine Technologies, Torghatten, DNV and others. Here is an overview of all the sponsors.

These are the teams that participated:

  • Arcturus (USA, MIT)
  • Técnico Solar Boat (Portugal, Instituto Superior Técnico)
  • Vortex (Norway, NTNU)
  • Autobee (Turkey, Istanbul Technical University)
  • StrathVoyager (Scotland, University of Strathclyde)
  • Aritra (India, Indian Institute of Technology Madras)
  • Navier (Norway, USN)