AVC 2014 Rules

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Each team (aerial and ground teams) are given 3 attempts throughout the day to earn points. You will be called when it is time to bring your vehicle to the starting zone (either ground or aerial) and if you are not ready, you will forfeit that run and receive no points. You will receive a heat schedule the day of the event, letting you know an approximate time for each of your three runs. If you need to wait for GPS lock or a setup routine, you will need to do this beforehand (in the pits) before your run starts. Allowances for unforeseen delays will be taken into account, but will be up to the head judge. Please notify SparkFun staff if you have an issue that prevents you from competing on schedule. Repairs, bad code, gremlins, or dead batteries do not count. Be prepared for anything and everything.

The team with the most points goes home with the glory. Prizes are given for the top 3 teams in each category. All teams are scored and ranked by the total number of points accrued in three runs. The team with the highest points wins. Each run will add more points to the team’s overall score.


A successful run is one where the vehicle navigates around the 4 waypoints (yellow stanchions) and crosses the finish line in under 5 minutes. Time-based points start at 300 and are deducted (1 per second) until the run is completed. You cannot get negative points for time. Time points only count if your run is successful. Each successful run will be given points based on the time it took them to finish the course and whatever bonuses were achieved.

The vehicle must be fully autonomous and self-contained. No transmitters or communication beacons (other than GPS) of any kind are allowing. You may NOT tether to a laptop or other device. Everything necessary for the vehicle’s navigation/processing/sensing must be attached and part of the vehicle itself.

The ground course will be closed to both spectators and participants. Participants with vehicles currently running may follow within the inner perimeter of the course, but may not be on the course with the vehicles when they are running. You will be expected to make all necessary measurements, adjustments, and sensor readings before the event starts. Once the first heat is started, no one except competing vehicles and their team may be in the course, and to start their vehicle for the run.

We will be running 5 vehicles at a time. You will line up on the start/finish line, wait for a signal, and press a button to start your robot. Do not use a delay or some other mechanism to start your robot. It must be in a ready position, and be started with a physical input (button, switch, etc). It may not be started wirelessly. It is suggested that your vehicle have a GPS lock in the pits, be on, and be simply waiting for a button to start driving.

Bonus Points

Bonus points are given for completing special tasks during a run. Once earned, they cannot be taken away. You can score bonus points even if you do not complete a successful run.

  • 50 - passing through the hoop
  • 50 - clearing the ramp
  • 25 - each successful corner cleared (vehicle must completely clear corner, not just reach it)


  • Team completes a run in 2.5 minutes and passes under hoop. this team would score 150 points for their time, 25 points for each completed corner (100 points), and 50 points for the hoop bonus. Their total score would be 150+100+50 = 300
  • Team does not complete course, but goes around 3 corners and clears the hoop and ramp. they would score no points for time (did not complete course), but would receive 75 points for 3 successful corners, 50 points for the hoop, and 50 points for the ramp. they would end up with a total of 175 points for the run.
  • Team completes course in 1 minute, but does not clear the ramp or the hoop. they would get 240 points for time and 100 points for successfully clearing all 4 corners. their total score would be 340.


A successful run is one where the vehicle takes off autonomously, reaches the waypoint, and ends at the landing zone (landing either manually or autonomously) without passing into the no-fly zone. Each successful run will be given points based on the time it took them to finish the course and any additional bonus points earned during the run.

As with ground vehicles, tethering or communicating with anything other than GPS is not allowed. Vehicles must have an option for manual control. Fully autonomous vehicles (no ability to take over control) will not be allowed.

Time-based points start at 600 and are deducted (1 per second) until the run is completed. You cannot get negative points for time. Time points only count if your run is successful. The timer starts when the judge says ‘go’ and ends when the vehicles comes to a complete stop. This still applies if you are manually landing.

Entering the no-fly zone will cause a disqualification for the run, and you will be forced to manually land. You will get no time-based points, but will retain any bonus points earned before entering the no-fly zone. Consider the boundaries to the ‘no-fly zone’ to be fuzzy.

The ultimate goal here is to protect spectators and anyone else at the venue. If your vehicle veers drastically off course and enters into the no-fly zone, you will be disqualified. If your vehicle is right at the boundary but is navigating well and is within its own control, this will be acceptable. Ultimately, disqualification will be up to the head judge, but small allowances will be made due to wind and the general nature (and miracle) of autonomous flight.

Autonomous vs. Manual Control

Your vehicle must take off autonomously, navigate the course autonomously, and land either manually or autonomously. For a run to count for time points, you must stay within the defined course (not enter into the no-fly zones), reach the checkpoint, and go back to the landing zone. You must do ALL of this autonomously.

You may use a catapult or other device to launch autonomously. The device should require a single button or switch to launch your vehicle into the air. Hand-throwing will not be counted as an autonomous launch.

If you are landing manually, you must first cross over the landing zone autonomously, and then take over control and land. If you are landing automatically, you can simply land after the checkpoint has been reached. Ultimately, the landing zone must be crossed autonomously (after reaching the checkpoint) for a run to be valid. After that, you can choose to land manually or autonomously.

If the controls are touched at ANY part during the autonomous portion of the run, the run is automatically disqualified. Once you switch to autonomous control, you can only switch back to land manually.

If your vehicle is in danger of crossing into the no-fly zone, flying into a crowd, or any other situation we might not want, you may be forced to regain control and have your run disqualified.

Bonus Points

Bonus points are given for completing special tasks on a run. Once earned, they cannot be taken away. You can score bonus points even if you do not complete a successful run.

  • 25 - autonomous landing
  • 25 - autonomous landing within bonus box
  • 50 - successful payload drop
  • 25 - clipping a balloon (each)
  • 25 - popping a balloon (each)
  • 50 - passing under wicket

Payload Drop

The payload is a standard tennis ball. They will be provided the day of the competition by SparkFun to each team. You must use the tennis ball we provide. If you plan to make modifications to the tennis ball, it must be simple and not interfere with the basic structure of the ball (adding an eye-hook as a release mechanism is fine). Clear any modifications with the judges beforehand. It must still float and be retrievable.

To earn bonus points for the payload drop, you must drop the tennis ball on the peninsula within the authorized course (cannot land in the no-fly-zone) and it must make initial contact with land. If it hits the water, this does not count and will not earn bonus points. If it first hits land and then bounces into water, this counts. If it bounces off the water and onto the land, you’re a witch. You will not be penalized for missing.

Red Balloons of Death

There will be three red balloons spread throughout the flight path. They will be tethered to the ground (or over the water). If your vehicle comes into contact with a balloon, but doesn't pop it, you will get 25 (per balloon touched). If you manage to pop the balloon, you will get an additional 25 points (for a total of 50 points possible for each balloon). Balloons will be reset after each run, so each run gives you the opportunity for all 3. You are not required to attempt to pop them; you can avoid them. Avoiding the balloons has no penalty.

You must make contact with the balloons to gain bonus points. You cannot use projectiles or any other weapons. Use of projectiles or ballistic weapons will result in disqualification.

Wicket Pass

There will be an wicket (think of croquet) that you can pass under for extra points. It will be 30’Wx20’H and be on the final approach to the landing zone. Successfully passing under this will earn you bonus points. You will not be penalized in any way if you do not attempt or do not successfully pass under (unless of course you crash and burn).


  • Team takes off autonomously, flies past first checkpoint successfully, reaches waypoint, but fails to land (crashes before landing zone). This run would receive no points for their run.
  • Team takes off automatically, flies past checkpoint successfully, passes through landing zone, then lands manually in 6 minutes. The team would receive 240 points for time and no bonus points.
  • Team takes off autonomously, arrives at checkpoint, makes a successful drop, but crossed into the no-fly zone on the way to the landing zone. Team would receive no points for time, but 50 points for the payload drop.
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