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The University of Southampton
NEXUSS - Next Generation Unmanned Systems Science

Grand Challenge

The NEXUSS Grand Challenge is the keystone element in the first year training of each cohort. Students work in teams to address a scientific or industry-relevant environmental challenge. The primary purpose is to give you hands-on experience working as teams to use autonomous equipment in a semi-directed environment.

Student teams are each assigned a mentor to guide them through the activities, but teams are ultimately responsible for choosing how to deploy the autonomous equipment available to address the challenge.

Grand Challenge 2017/18

The first grand challenge was held in Oban, Scotland and was delivered as a developing scenario. Teams received communications a couple times a day revealing new information about their challenge (a leaking undersea pipe scenario). Using the RV Calanus as a base, teams used DJ Sparks and Mavics drones to make aerial surveys to identify the region of the spill.


Spill region
Aerial imagery of the `oil spill' captured from a drone.
Deploying AUV GAVIA
Teledyne Gavia AUV searches for subsurface evidence of rhodamine dye.








They then deployed the Teledyne AUV GAVIA to make high resolution maps of bathymetry with the addition of an optical sensor for rhodamine dye. A Hyball ROV was then used to look more closely at the “pipe” and identify the source. Data were combined to make estimates of the extent of the spill. Back on land, the teams used a numerical model for the region to track forwards and backwards in time, to pinpoint the source and estimate its spread.

Grand Challenge 2018/19

The next Grand Challenge will be onboard the RRS Sir David Attenborough, the UK’s new icebreaker, during Arctic trials. The destination is Svalbard, one of the northernmost reaches on the planet. Students will work together to use the global class research ship along with autonomous platforms to address an environmental challenge.


RRS Sir David Attenborough
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