CSIRO’s Data61 team claims second place in the ‘Robot Olympics’


Robotics experts led by Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, have clinched second place in a world leading robotics competition widely regarded as the ‘Robot Olympics’.

The CSIRO Data61 team participated in the third and final phase of the three-year-long competition, beating teams from NASA JPL/MIT, California Institute of Technology, and Carnegie Mellon University to become first Australian team to place in the top two at a DARPA robotics challenge.

Organised and funded by the US Government research agency DARPA, the Subterranean Challenge seeks to push the boundaries of autonomous robotic technology.

The competition, which culminated in a final event held inside the Louisville Mega Cavern in Louisville in Kentucky, required CSIRO’s Data61 team to remotely operate their autonomous robots in an underground environment that simulated a real-world scenario.

This included locating models representing lost or injured humans, backpacks, or phones, as well as variable conditions such as pockets of gas.

Points were awarded for correct identification and location of items, mapping the terrain, and maintaining autonomy and communications throughout.

Dr Navinda Kottege, ceader of team CSIRO’s Data61 and CSIRO’s Robotics group leader, said the ‘amazing result’ cemented CSIRO’s place as a world leader in robotics.

“I’d like to thank team partners Emesent and Georgia Institute of Technology for their exceptional research and development and contribution to this amazing result,” Dr Kottege added.

Dr Farid Kendoul, CTO and co-founder of Emesent, a CSIRO spinout, stated:

“Congratulations to the winners of the DARPA Subterranean Challenge. It’s great news for Australia, and I am so proud of team CSIRO’s Data61 placing second, and the contributions that Emesent made over the three years to advance the team’s state-of-the-art robotics and showcase the capabilities of Australian companies on a global stage.”

According to CSIRO’s statement, the A$1.3 in prize money will be reinvested into team CSIRO’s Data61’s research and development of Australian technology.

Image credit: https://www.csiro.au/en/news/News-releases/2021/Australia-claims-historic-top-two-spot-in-the-Robot-Olympics#photosection