IAEA Robotics Challenge
Challenge Status: Closed
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What do we want to improve?
Some of the most common tasks undertaken by the IAEA inspectors involve making repetitive measurements in areas that can be difficult to access, or with elevated radiation levels. This is a domain where robotic could play a role, not only to improve the working conditions of the inspectors but also to enhance the consistency of the IAEA measurements. Two categories of robotic platforms are specifically considered for this technology challenge:
Challenge Category 1: Small Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV)
Inspectors frequently use a small handheld optical instrument called the Improved Cerenkov Viewing Device (ICVD) to confirm the presence of spent fuel stored underwater. The IAEA would like to mount this device inside a small robotized floating platform, which would autonomously propel itself across the surface of the pond, while stabilizing the ICVD in a vertical position.
Challenge Category 2: Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV)
Inspectors conduct a routine task that includes counting containers, recording their ID tags and performing gamma measurements on some of them. The IAEA would like to identify small unmanned vehicles / robotized rolling platforms able to assist the inspector by performing the following tasks: moving autonomously across a storage area, counting items of a specific geometry, recording their ID tags, and carrying specific IAEA instrument payloads.
Full description of these tasks is available to the registered challenge participants here.
Challenge participants must submit the following deliverables:
- Filled-in template describing the system and explaining how key scenarios have been technically addressed
- Short dedicated (non-commercial) videos showing the robot performing in these situations
Submission will open on June 19; registered participants will have access to the templates and submission forms here.
Participants with the best technical proposals will receive funding to participate in the Demonstration Week (robotics hackathon), organized in Australia (attendance limited to two individuals per proposal). The IAEA will allocate 20.000 euros to support private entities, startups or small businesses and will eventually facilitate access to alternative sources of funding for other categories of organizations.
First prizes in each category (USV and UGV) are 5000 EUR; two second prizes are 3500 EUR each; IAEA will also distribute three supporting prizes of 1000 EUR each.
Other challenge participants with compliant proposals will be welcome to participate in the Demonstration Week at their own expenses.
Over 300 people registered for the robotics challenge; 12 teams were ultimately selected to take part in the demonstration week, organized on 20-24 November in Brisbane, Australia by the IAEA, the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office (ASNO), and the Commonwealth Industrial and Scientific Research Organization (CSIRO).
To test the USV, or “floating robots”, a large water tank was prepared with pattern images representing typical spent fuel assemblies; each robot was mounted with an instrument mock-up, and was programmed to autonomously capture visual image of the fuel mock-ups. Various installed obstacles and circulation pumps were set to create realistic conditions. A separate testing environment of approximately 300 square meters was set up for UGV, or “ground robots”. Each UGV had to perform various tasks with as little operator interventions as possible, including positioning a heavy 12 kg payload (simulating a germanium detector) close to each of the target containers and acquiring a high-resolution 3D scan of a warehouse environment to count specific objects and detect changes.
The panel of experts selected 3 top-performing USV systems as compliant to the IAEA technical requirements. These teams will be invited to participate in proof-of-concept deployments, involving IAEA inspectors and nuclear site operators. While UGV systems exhibited promising performances, unfortunately none was deemed sufficiently mature to be deployed by IAEA without significant developments: in particular, operating the robotics systems still requires too much manual inputs to be safely operated by IAEA inspectors. The IAEA will continue monitoring the advances in robotic technologies and will be looking for more specialized systems in a near future.
Final anonymized technical report, providing an overview of the evaluation of USV and UGV for Safeguards and presenting the results for 12 robotic systems that participated in the demonstration week, is now available for download.
Participants need to register to receive full access to the challenge details and to the proposal submission page. Registered participants will also get access to the regularly updated Question/Answer page.
Start of the challenge
The technical proposal shall be in the English language; it shall be precise and concise - catalogues, marketing or commercial documentation shall be avoided unless necessary. Participants shall provide all deliverables requested on the submission page.
Participants’ technical proposals
A panel of inspectors and IAEA experts will evaluate the proposed technologies against the criteria outlined below. The evaluations will be regularly updated in order to determine final technical acceptability:
- Applicability to fulfill key scenarios
- Compactness and ruggedness
- Ease of customization facilitating IAEA deployments
During the evaluation period, additional clarification questions may be sent by the IAEA to the participants.
If the selected proof of concept requires any significant customization level of effort, the IAEA may be inclined to finance some of the associated development cost (to be agreed ad-hoc).
Proof-of-concept - ongoing
The IAEA will invite participants to submit commercial proposals in accordance with IAEA procurement policy. The commercial proposals will be evaluated based on the final technical scores as well as commercial acceptability of the financial proposal and contractual compliance.
A Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA a.k.a. IQIQ, Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity) will be awarded to the bidders who submit the best value for money combining “cost and quality”.
When applicable, selected participants shall transfer the software source-code to allow the IAEA to customize the solution on its own. The IAEA may award multiple contract agreements related to this project.
Procurement (Request for Proposal and Contracting)