Our History

See UMA's past achievements and accomplishments!

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2024: The Phoenix Returns

At the 2024 RoboBoat Competition, The Phoenix sets sail once more—emerging stronger from the trials and tribulations of its past, UM::Autonomy’s 2024 vessel focuses on simplicity in design and workflow in order to further ensure a reliable, maintainable, and modular system.

Understanding the tighter time constraints of the 2024 season, a greater emphasis was placed on design validation and in-water testing, which was facilitated by maintaining an operable vessel and reducing design complexity from last year. This design strategy was complemented with a testing strategy that relocated the team permanently into its testing environment, made testing a weekly process from the start of the season, and allowed for multiple modes of testing to guarantee success.


2023: The Phoenix

Rising from the ashes of defeat and disorder following the pandemic, the phoenix soars to competition this year with renewed pride, a greater sense of togetherness, and a singular focus: to compete hard while having fun.

After a hard-fought competition the previous year, the team chose to focus on four principles for this year: decoupling, reliability, maintainability, and performance. Not only was the AI pipeline decoupled and tested separately, but nearly all major components of the boat could be separated, making it extremely modular and maintainable. It was the first year that the team tested in the Marine Hydrodynamics Laboratory, and did so for over 100 hours. In addition, it was the first year that the boat was made out of carbon fiber from scratch - from the painstaking mold making, preparation, and vacuum resin infusion - in order to produce a boat that weighed less than 60 pounds while still delivering impeccable results.


2022: Flying Sloth 2

The team’s monumental return to the RoboBoat Competition following the COVID-19 pandemic was met with triumphs as well as hardships. The team decided to refurbish the Flying Sloth from the 2017 competition in order to focus on testing and learning skills that were lost due to the lack of in-person opportunities.

With the Flying Sloth providing a strong foundation for the accommodation of new software and hardware development thanks to the new water blast and skeeball challenges, a new superstructure made of carbon fiber was fitted onto the boat. The goal was to use the strong foundation to design a fast system that provided lots of room for mounting electronics and hardware while being easily accessible.


2021: C-3PO

Joined by our drone, R2-D2

C-3PO is named in reference to the trimaran (three hulls) design of our boat. In previous years, our boat has typically used a monohull design but this year, the trimaran design is used to improve boat stability.

With the continuation of the current roboboat competition virtual format and the uncertainty of the global pandemic, the team wanted to revise the previous iteration of the boat/drone which was unfortunately never completed due to Covid-19.

This meant keeping and making small improvements to areas of strength such as the sensor suite, electrical box system, carbon fiber fiber infusion process, and much of our software while also experimenting with more innovative approaches such as the new hull form, hydrophone system, and addition of a CV/Lidar Deep learning approach. These changes allowed the team to better tackle the RoboBoat competitions challenges and ultimately push the organization to greater heights.


2020: Pass

Joined by our drone, “No Record COVID”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we experienced a shutdown and saw a shift in the 2020 RoboBoat competition format to a virtual one.

Although our development cycle and competition period was disappointedly cut short, we believe we have made many important improvements to our design. With new hardware, a reworked sensor suite, and a modified hull form, we looked to bring our autonomous boat design to the next level of professional design.

We believe these changes have greatly improved our ability to tackle the challenges of the RoboBoat competition and have enabled future improvements and successes.


2019: Daedelus

First Carbon Fiber boat, joined by our first custom drone, Icarus

We came out of 2018 with the right balance of optimism and frustration with the result of competition. We wanted to make a change and Daedalus is the culmination of every sub team going above and beyond anything we have ever attempted on this team.

Daedalus is the first Carbon Fiber boat in the team’s history, it’s the first time we have used a custom implementation of Robot Operation System (ROS), and the first time overhauling almost every piece of hardware we have both on, and inside the boat.

Joined by the team’s first entirely custom drone, Icarus, our entry into RoboBoat 2019 is perhaps our most daring attempt yet. Detroit as whole, and our biggest supporters in Michigan are making a comeback, we’ve stepped up to do our part too.


2018: John Sea Na

3rd among American Universities

2018 gave our team a glimpse of our potential for the future. As a predominantly Sophomore and Junior team we recognized the need to target specific areas in order to return the team to success.

We focused on team organization, system engineering and collaboration across groups. By making targeted improvements as a team, we were able to make significant progress at competition. After previously not making it into finals the year prior, we were headed into finals in 4th and finished 3rd among American Universities.

We see this year as an incredible opportunity to build on the experience of a majority upperclassmen team and strive to win the 2019 RoboBoat competition.


2017: Flying Sloth

First trimaran and first entirely SLAM dependent system

The 2017 competition was a year of firsts for UM::Autonomy: first trimaran, first entirely SLAM dependent system and first total overhaul of our code base.

Our team, almost entirely composed of underclassmen, was awarded 2nd place in the static competition. We achieved this result despite constant hardware breakdowns, which prevented the AI team from doing adequate testing before the preliminary competition. As a result, we could not effectively tune our boat’s thrusters for the strong competition winds and were forced to manually tune during competition runs.

Moving forward we look to simplify the electrical box in order to make processing signal data more efficient, and avoid time-intensive repairs.


2016: Thurman

Change from catamaran to monohull design

Thurman took home 6th place in the 9th annual AUVSI RoboBoat competition.

In a departure from previous designs, Thurman has a monohull instead of a catamaran design. This change provided a large internal volume, which was able to house all of the electronics. The thrusters were mounted to outriggers which were added for increased stability with the change in hull design.

One addition to the docking challenge this year was attaching a velcro strip to the dock, the ramming mechanism on the front of the hull was designed to deposit this velcro strip. This year the hull was done especially early which allowed for greater testing time before mock competition.


2015: Sharkbyte

Waterproofing and water cooling system

After a strong qualifying run, SharkByte qualified for the finals of the 8th annual RoboBoat competition in first place. "SharkByte took home 3rd place in the finals.

A major design change between SharkByte and previous boats was waterproofing. By using fully waterproof electrical connectors and a water cooling system, SharkByte was more than just splash-proof. The electrical system was new this year to accommodate this.

After moving Hugh Jackman’s (Sharkbyte's predecessor) deck higher off the water with its taller hulls, it was decided that the waterproofing of the electrical systems would allow the deck to sit much lower to the water. This lowered center of gravity provided increased stability. The main goals of UM::Autonomy this year were the waterproofing and improved hull design.


2014: Hugh Jackman

Taller hulls for protection from water splash

Hugh Jackman, named after the equally impressive actor, acquired 8th place in the 2014 RoboBoat competition.

Even though Hugh Jackman’s performance did not reach our high standards, this boat had several improvements. Hugh has completely new, taller hulls which allows our electronics to be more protected from water splash. Additionally, with a brand new electric box, Hugh is more organized and more efficient than ever. With all of these revisions, Hugh has successfully paved the way for future iterations to perform exceedingly well.

UM::Autonomy’s 2014 goal was to practice multiple, full-scale tests including our own mock competition and general testing in the Lurie Fountain.


2013: Eve

Accompanied by WALL-E, a small land vehicle

Eve took 4th place in the 6th annual RoboBoat competition. The main differences between Eve and her predecessors include a major camera upgrade, as well as a new hull shape and propulsion configuration that allowed for much greater maneuverability, though she used the same electrical system as her predecessor Serenity.

Eve was also accompanied by a small land vehicle named WALL-E who was designed to handle the amphibious landing challenge. Eve also featured a NERF gun that was to be used for a shooting challenge.

The main focus of UM::Autonomy during this year was quality manufacturing and thorough testing.


2012: Serenity

1st place at the 5th annual RoboBoat competition

Serenity consistently completed the entire buoy course with some major software upgrades and attempted the “Hot Sign” and “Poker Chip” challenges. At 106 Lbs Serenity weighed in as UM::Autonomy’s heaviest boat to date.

Serenity’s most notable differences from her predecessor Wolvemarine include an entirely new electrical system and vision system. Serenity did however use the same hulls as her predecessor Wolvemarine. Serenity was equipped with an Infrared Camera as well as a Water Cannon.

The main focus of the team this year was the completion of the buoy course.


2011: Wolvemarine

First boat to create 3D Point Clouds of its environment

Wolvemarine was built to compete in the 4th annual RoboBoat competition.

Distinctive for its innovative panning Panning Lidar, Wolvemarine was the first boat in competition history to create 3D Point Clouds of its environment. Wolvemarine also featured a new Hull shape that allowed for greater speed through the water.

Although UM::Autonomy took 1st place in the static judging portion of the competition we experienced several technical issues, causing us to do very poorly during the rest of the competition. However, the team did receive the “Edge of the Envelope” award for the major technological advances that were developed.


2010: Mjolnir

First boat to feature custom made fiberglass hulls and Lidar

Mjolnir was created to compete in the 3rd annual RoboBoat competition and succeeded in claiming 1st place in the Static Judging as well as competition as a whole.

Named after the hammer of the Norse god Thor; Mjolnir was a major achievement for UM::Autonomy. Mjolnir was the first boat made by UM::Autonomy to feature custom made fiberglass hulls and the electrical system was created entirely from scratch.

Mjolnir was the first boat in RoboBoat history to feature a laser range finder, AKA Lidar.