The international robotics competition ERL Emergency 2017 was announced during a press briefing in Florence at the Tuscany Region headquarters by representatives of NATO STO-Centre for Maritime Research and Experimentation (CMRE), of the Piombino Municipality and of the Tuscany Region. The competition is funded by the European Commission under the H2020 programme and locally organised by CMRE La Spezia.

When everything seems lost and the end inevitable, a robotics team arrives to save survivors and start work on the first emergency repairs.

This is not a clip from a science-fiction movie but a simulation of robots’ intervention which will happen at Tor del Sale, near the ENEL power plant, on the coast of Piombino, Italy, from 15 to 23 September. The scenario is inspired by one of the most catastrophic nuclear accidents in history, at the power plant of Fukushima, Japan, in 2011, when radiations prevented rescue teams from intervening, and this triggered a series of events that ended in disaster.

ERL Emergency Robots 2017 in Piombino is a challenge gathering 130 participants from 16 universities and companies from 8 European countries, with sea, land and air robots involved. These robots will cooperate to bring the first relief to survivors, entering the power plant to close some valves in order to stem the leak of contaminant chemicals.

Robots should be able to make autonomous decisions on how to intervene in an unexpected situation. Nevertheless, is there any risk that these machines rise up in the future going beyond our control?

“No – says Alan Winfield, competition judge and Professor of Ethical Robotics at the University of the West of England, in Bristol – It is true that future robots are likely to be smarter and more autonomous, but they will still be machines designed by humans, for humans, so there is no real risk that they will be out of control. There are some risks in any new technology, however the ethical risks are more likely to have an impact on privacy or war fighting. We need to take steps to ensure that robots improve human well-being”.

The objective of the researchers participating in the ERL Emergency Robots is to design more effective robots capable of cooperating with humans to increase safety, even in the most difficult scenarios – how to address these challenges will be the focus of several talks by renowned speakers.

“We want young people to champion ERL Emergency Robots 2017 – says Gabriele Ferri, Technical Director of the event –Young people will see the robots in action during the competition, and will have the opportunity to attend a series of workshops organised by Scuola di Robotica of Genova.”

Furthermore, Italian universities and research centres will present three important European projects in which they are involved. WALK-MAN is the humanoid robot of the Italian Institute of Technology of Genova; SHERPA is developing a mountain rescue system using ground and aerial robots; TRADR, a project for search and rescue in areas struck by disaster, employed after the Amatrice earthquake.

The competition is locally organised by the Centre for Maritime Research and Experimentation (CMRE) of La Spezia with funding from the European Commission which aims to support research in robotics and to increase younger people participation.

For more information about CMRE:

Background information

ERL History

ERL is the natural evolution of highly successful previous competitions funded under FP7: RoCKIn, euRathlon and EuRoC. All three projects aimed to foster scientific progress and innovation in cognitive systems and robotics through the design and implementation of new competitions.

The European Robotics League is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement n° 688441.

About euRobotics and SPARC

euRobotics is a non-profit organisation based in Brussels with the objective to make robotics beneficial for Europe’s economy and society. With more than 250-member organisations, euRobotics also provides the European Robotics Community with a legal entity to engage in a public/private partnership with the European Commission, named SPARC.

SPARC is the largest civilian-funded robotics innovation programme in the world, which aims to strategically position European robotics, thereby securing major benefits for the European economy and society at large.


CMRE, executive body of the scientific and technological organisation of NATO, is a world level research centre conducting scientific experimentation and development of technological applications in the maritime domain.

Located in La Spezia, thanks to over 50 years of experience in the field, CMRE is one of the reference organisations at global level in the study and development of new technologies for seas and oceans.

CMRE has also a wide experience in the organisation of robotics related events. Since 2010, CMRE has hosted the SAUC-E competition and has led the euRathlon Grand Challenge at Piombino in 2015.

ERL Emergency 2017 brochure