Two underwater robot projects were among the three winners of the Degree of Freedom competition for unmanned vehicles and driver assistance systems that will now be awarded mini-grants from the Skolkovo Foundation.

GNOM's underwater robots are designed to monitor conditions at potentially dangerous sites like sunken ships.

The winners will receive amounts ranging from one million to five million rubles ($14,000 to $70,000) to develop their projects.

From about 50 projects submitted for the competition, 10 were selected for presentation to a jury consisting of experts from the Federal Agency of Scientific Organisations (FASO), the Advanced Research Foundation, venture capital fund Phystech Ventures and the Aeronet working group – the section of the National Technology Initiative devoted to unmanned aerial vehicles – as well as the president of the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech), Alexander Kuleshov.

The first place – and a Skolkovo grant of 5 million rubles – was awarded to a project for an integrated platform for the long-distance video-monitoring of underwater areas using remote-controlled robot technology.

The system would allow the algorithmic monitoring of underwater sites, and the data received could be transmitted instantly to anywhere in the world.

The team behind the winning project has already developed a compact remote-controlled underwater device called GNOM that is on sale both in Russia and abroad. The device is designed for situations when it is essential to regularly inspect the condition of potentially dangerous underwater objects, such as sunken ships and containers holding waste, in order to prevent accidents, which can have serious consequences both for the environment and for companies, in the form of huge fines and compensation payouts. The underwater robots are designed for use by shipbuilding and repair companies, the owners of port infrastructure, floating storage facilities, ship owners, aquaculture farmers and rescue workers, among others.

Skoltech president Alexander Kuleshov (right) reacts during the final.

The second prize, a grant of 3 million rubles, was awarded to the Micro Underwater Robot project. The team behind the project has designed a programmable construction kit for the creation of autonomous underwater robots that currently has no equivalent on the market. The construction kit is designed to be simple enough for schoolchildren to learn programming using it. The team is currently working on the creation of a manual for developing navigation algorithms for the underwater robot, along with artificial vision and controlling devices. By the end of this year, kits will start being distributed among roboticists: the company has more than 50 orders. The team then plans to launch its product on the market, including abroad, before turning to the production and sale of related parts such as sensors, data transmitters and video cameras with which the robots can be fitted.

Third place – a grant of 1 million rubles – was given to a project consisting of small, remote-controlled multicopter aerial vehicles with a long flying time. The project envisages the creation of a multicopter – a rotorcraft with more than two rotors – with a flying time that is four to eight times longer than current analogues. The longer flying time is made possible by the use of hydrogen fuel cells.

“The main aim of our competition is to develop unmanned technology projects, and to identify promising teams and projects,” said Alexei Gonnochenko, a project manager for Skolkovo’s Robocentre within the foundation’s IT cluster.

“It’s gratifying that two of the prizewinners are Skolkovo residents, and the other [the multicopter project] is in the process of getting Skolkovo resident status,” he said.

Gonnochenko said the Robocentre is ready to continue working with all 10 of the competition’s finalists to help them develop their projects, attract financing and obtain Skolkovo resident status to help implement their ideas.

The Degree of Freedom competition was organized by the Skolkovo Foundation and FASO, with the support of Phystech Ventures.