Khalifa University of Science and Technology’s Center for Autonomous Robotic Systems (KUCARS) and Stanford University have entered into a collaboration to explore the use of marine robotics for sustainable ocean ecosystems including removal of plastics to curb pollution. The partners also inaugurated the Khalifa University Marine Robotics Lab, the UAE and Middle East’s first-ever state-of-the-art advanced robotics research facility equipped with wave and stream generation facilities.

The collaboration was part of an agreement that was signed by Professor John O’Reilly, President of Khalifa University, and Professor Oussama Khatib, Director, of Stanford Robotics Laboratory (SRL), in the Computer Science Department at Stanford University. The signing ceremony was attended by His Excellency Salem Butti Salem Al Qubaisi, Member of the Board of Trustees of Khalifa University, and Director-General of the UAE Space Agency and His Excellency Fahed Salem Ahmed Alkayyoomi, Undersecretary of the Abu Dhabi Department of Government Support.

The Marine Robotics Pool at Khalifa University allows the testing of robots under a controlled environment that simulates the adverse underwater environmental conditions of the sea. The pool includes a wave generator, a flow current generator, underwater and overhead tracking systems, and an overhanging (gantry-type) mechanism covering the entire width of the pool.

The OceanOneK robot, designed and built by a Stanford University team led by Professor Khatib, also made its Abu Dhabi debut and demonstrated its capability in retrieving plastic waste in the Khalifa University marine robotics pool.

The agreement between Khalifa University and Stanford will facilitate research and development of marine robotics systems for sustainable marine ecosystem applications, such as ocean monitoring, ocean cleaning and deep water exploration.

Dr Arif Sultan Al Hammadi, Executive Vice-President at Khalifa University, said: “Khalifa University’s Marine Robotics Lab, one of the most important research facilities and the first-of-its-kind in the region, will develop marine studies and research in the UAE and the region. The new facility enhances the UAE's research capabilities and places it at the forefront of countries in research and development in this field.

“Khalifa University has always remained at the forefront of research and innovation in the UAE and the region, and we are delighted to enter into this collaboration with Stanford University to further expand the scope of our research in robotics and machine learning to ensure sustainability and cleaner oceans by removing plastics and other pollutants. We believe this collaboration will surely lead to more sustainable solutions that will benefit the UAE and the global community, in ensuring a cleaner environment on planet earth.”

Professor Lakmal Seneviratne, Director, KUCARS, said: “Our researchers are already developing autonomous robots for various land, air and marine applications. In the recent past, KUCARS researchers have applied for patents on five innovative robotics solutions for these applications.”