RoboSub Competition

Advice for International Teams

  • 1.  Advice for International Teams

    Posted 20-02-2012 10:50
    This message has been cross posted to the following eGroups: RoboSub Competition and RoboBoat Competition .
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    Hi everyone,

    We have several new international teams signed up for RoboBoat and RoboSub this year. If you have advice for new teams coming into the competitions on shipping their vehicles, obtaining Visas, etc. please email me at siminski@... with your advice and I will post it on a special webpage for these new teams.

    Thank you in advance for sharing your experience!

    Wendy

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    Wendy Siminski
    Director of Development
    AUVSI Foundation
    Dayton OH
    United States
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  • 2.  RE:Advice for International Teams

    Posted 20-02-2012 13:11
    Hi.

    Here is some information from RUAUV about the hoops we needed to jump through these past two years we've been participating.


    RUAUV RoboSub travel logistics

    - Figure out any travel permissions for team members
    Apply for all permissions well in advance. Do team members need a visa to enter the US? Even if a visa is not required there may be some travel permissions that need to be obtained (e.g. https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/). These things may vary depending on the country of origin so investigate this well in advance and also apply well in advance.

    - Figure out any permissions for AUV transportation
    RUAUV got an ATA carnet for the equipment that we sent. This should simplify customs handling greatly (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ATA_Carnet). It's a document on which you list all the parts of your AUV and their estimated value. This gets stamped in customs on your way out of your country of origin, also when it enters the US, again when it leaves the US and then for the last time when it enters back into the country of origin. There is usually some entity that issues ATA carnets in each country and you need to figure out what that entity is in your country. When you apply for an ATA carnet you pay some fee and deposit an insurance in some way. You then get your insurance deposit back when you hand in the ATA carnet with the stamps from all the customs described above. It's therefore _very important_ that you make sure that this document gets stamped in all the customs places. Otherwise you may not get your deposit back (and that can be a significant amount).

    - Figure out transportation for the AUV and equipment
    You may want to send the AUV with you on the plane as checked luggage. This may or may not be possible due to size/weight limitations. Be aware that if you're not flying with the same airline the whole way, the second "leg" may not accept your AUV as checked luggage. So either make sure that all the airlines will accept it or try to use  the same airline the whole way if possible.
    If you can't check it in as luggage, you need to figure out some other way to transport it. One way is to talk to some company that specializes in shipments. DHL and FedEx were not of much use to us since they wouldn't accept such a big package but that may be different between countries. We ended up transporting the boat as cargo dealing directly with the airline ourselves. Doing this means that you have to go and get the AUV out of customs yourself (this is where you get the ATA carnet stamped). You might hear that you'll need a customs "broker" to do this for you but if you have the ATA carnet that shouldn't be needed (we at least did this ourselves the past two years).
    We've done this twice now and the first year we flew the AUV to Seattle. We then checked it out of customs in Seattle and two team members drove it down to San Diego. This was done to avoid the added complexity of dealing with two airlines and having to rely on someone else making sure that it got on the second flight. The second year (last year), we went a different route. Then we shipped it as cargo through an airline that flew to New York, but from there the same airline flew to San Diego. So there were two legs but they were handled by the same airline. Sure enough, our AUV got stuck for a day in New York because customs wasn't quite clear on how to handle it but it all worked out in the end. The most important thing is to speak with the airline and get contacts at all the places where your AUV will be stopping. We were able to speak directly with people at JFK airport and that enabled us to handle the problem that came up quickly.
    Keep in mind that all customs offices are closed during weekends so it's a good idea to plan on having gotten the AUV out of customs before the weekend before the competition. Last year we sent two team members before the rest to take care of this (myself and one other). We arrived on Wednesday and used Thursday and Friday to take care of these logistic tasks.

    - Batteries
    This deserves a category on its own. You need to figure out how to transport your batteries. Lithium batteries are a pain to transport via flight and in some cases it just can't be done. There are _very_ strict rules about transporting lithium batteries. So the best option (if possible) is to not use lithium batteries. Often (this is the case for us) there isn't really anything else you can use because of the amount of power your AUV needs to draw. In our case, we ended up ordering the lithium cells from China and got them delivered to the hotel. We do NOT recommend this (the batteries almost didn't arrive on time, they got stuck in customs in Alaska, etc, etc). Another thing you can possibly do is to make sure that you only use some common battery types (like the ones you use for RC planes). Make sure that you can buy them in the San Diego area before you decide on the battery solution for your AUV and even order them in advance to make sure you won't end up with a powerless AUV in San Diego. Also, if you use these types of "standard" batteries, there may be a chance that you can transport them via airplane. It's almost impossible to do so however on a passenger aircraft so it will need to be a cargo plane. In other words, really do your research here and it's a very good idea to find some expert who knows everything about transporting dangerous goods to help you out with this.

    - Decide on a team and buy the plane tickets well in advance
    We've joked that you probably need a Ph.D. to understand ticket pricing algorithms. One rule of thumb though is that the sooner you buy the tickets, the cheaper they are. But to buy the tickets you need to know who will be travelling so you need to decide on the team that's going.

    - Hotels
    Both the years we've stayed at the competition hotel. Since we don't know anything else I can't really say how much (if anything) you'll save on finding a cheaper hotel. But it definitely is nice to be around most of the other teams. There is also a certain level of understanding at the competition hotel about what we're doing. So turning your hotel room into an electronics lab and dumping an AUV in the hotel swimming pool will actually not get you arrested.

    - Rental cars
    This depends on your team size of course and the size of your AUV/equipment. We have found it nice to have at least one minivan to transport the AUV/equipment case. We also had some normal cars for quick trips (to the store etc). Shop around for the cheapest options and keep in mind that your airline might have a deal with some car rental so you could get it cheaper. Also figure out who can drive in the US (I think people under 25 years of age need to pay a significant premium on their rental agreements) and make sure you check whether those people need to apply for an international drivers licence (you don't need to take driver's ed again... you just have to go and get an "international" certificate).



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    Stefan Freyr Stefansson
    Computer Science

    Reykjavik University, Iceland
    http://www.reykjavikuniversity.is

    Team Freyja 2011 ' http://auv.ru.is
    Team Keiko 2010 ' http://projects.ru.is/X2010
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  • 3.  RE:Advice for International Teams

    Posted 21-02-2012 10:53
    Thanks a lot for all this helpful information. We are a little bit concerned about sending the batteries...

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    Julio Guillén
    FuVe-E
    Madrid
    Spain
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  • 4.  RE:Advice for International Teams

    Posted 21-02-2012 11:45
    Thanks a lot for all this helpful information. We are a little bit concerned about sending the batteries...

    What type of batteries are you using? Are they custom made or bought off the shelf (do you have a link)?

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    Stefan Freyr Stefansson
    Computer Science

    Reykjavik University, Iceland
    http://www.reykjavikuniversity.is

    Team Freyja 2011 ' http://auv.ru.is
    Team Keiko 2010 ' http://projects.ru.is/X2010
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  • 5.  RE:Advice for International Teams

    Posted 23-02-2012 13:39

    Stefan,

    Thank you again for your wonderful travel advice! I have taken your comments and placed them on the AUVSI Foundation website so many more teams can benefit from your advice.

    The new link to "advice for international teams" is www.auvsifoundation.org/internationalteams. If anyone has any additional insight to share, please send me an email and I'll add it to the site.

    Thank you!
    Wendy

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    Wendy Siminski
    Director of Development
    AUVSI Foundation
    Dayton OH
    United States
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  • 6.  RE:Advice for International Teams

    Posted 23-02-2012 20:33
    Thank you again for your wonderful travel advice! I have taken your comments and placed them on the AUVSI Foundation website so many more teams can benefit from your advice.

    The new link to "advice for international teams" is www.auvsifoundation.org/internationalteams. If anyone has any additional insight to share, please send me an email and I'll add it to the site.

    Thank you!
    Wendy

    You're very welcome! Now let's just hope that we end up being able to use this as a refresher for ourselves for this summers competition! If anyone knows of any money not being used... ;-)

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    Stefan Freyr Stefansson
    Computer Science

    Reykjavik University, Iceland
    http://www.reykjavikuniversity.is

    Team Freyja 2011 ' http://auv.ru.is
    Team Keiko 2010 ' http://projects.ru.is/X2010
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  • 7.  RE:Advice for International Teams

    Posted 28-02-2012 07:24
    Thanks a lot for all this helpful information. We are a little bit concerned about sending the batteries...

    What type of batteries are you using? Are they custom made or bought off the shelf (do you have a link)?

    We are still deciding between 2 or 3 models...

    -------------------------------------------
    Stefan Freyr Stefansson
    Computer Science

    Reykjavik University, Iceland
    http://www.reykjavikuniversity.is

    Team Freyja 2011 ' http://auv.ru.is
    Team Keiko 2010 ' http://projects.ru.is/X2010
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  • 8.  RE:Advice for International Teams

    Posted 17-05-2013 16:18
    Dear international competitors: I know this thread is older but I wanted to post something that might be helpful to US competitors/exhibitors traveling overseas with equipment or prototypes if they search here. We issue ATA Carnets in the US for hundred of universities and schools and do it many times without taking a deposit so this process can be very simple if you plan in advance. Here's an educational article I wrote about avoiding import duties and taxes for foreign trade shows and it is equally applicable to foreign competitions. There is also a short video that explains what a carnet is and how it works. I am a member of the Silicon Valley chapter but I am happy to assist anyone if they have questions or concerns about shipping or hand-carrying items abroad.

    Leslie August
    847-852-3103

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    Leslie August
    Senior Vice President
    San Juan Bautista CA
    United States
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  • 9.  RE:Advice for International Teams

    Posted 17-05-2013 19:59
    Hi Leslie,

    The new RoboSub forum is actually on robonation.org now.

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    Kevin Chen
    Amador Valley High School
    Pleasanton, CA, United States
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